By Mandy Pondani:
Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has with immediate effect suspended all phone-in programmes on all local radio stations citing unethical and careless reporting of post-election events as the main reason.
In a statement signed by Macra Director General Godfrey Itaye released Friday, the authority has accused some broadcasters of airing material that has potential to incite masses into violence.
The move has, however, received condemnation from media activists and Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter, which has described it as suppression of media freedom.
“Macra has noted with regret the conduct of some broadcasters who are indulging themselves in careless and unethical coverage of post-election events. The authority would like to inform broadcasters that such broadcasts have the potential to incite the masses into violence,” reads the statement in part.
“The authority is hereby suspending all phone-in programmes with immediate effect, until further notice…,” the statement adds.Advertisement
Macra has warned that it will continue executing its broadcasting monitoring mandate during this period saying it shall not hesitate to invoke regulatory sanctions to any broadcaster that deliberately breaches provisions of the Code of Conduct for broadcasters as stipulated in the Communications Act.
Itaye in a telephone interview yesterday said the media including radio stations have an obligation to conduct themselves professionally by complying with the available legislation.
But Misa Malawi Chapter Chairperson Teresa Ndanga said suspending all phone-in programmes is too wide and spells doom for press freedom.
She said, in the aftermath of the election, information dissemination remains critical saying any attempts to gag the media are unacceptable.
“Macra has in recent times become an enemy of media freedom and it is worrisome. Perhaps it would have made sense if the suspension was extended to election-related programmes alone. Otherwise, this is also violating on the masses’ right to access information,” Ndanga said.
She said Misa Malawi will be engaging Macra on the matter, with hope that the decision would be reversed.
Media activist Emmanuel Lawyer has accused Macra of allowing to be used by the State machinery for political interests.
The suspension comes after Malawi Congress Party supporters have been taking to the streets across the country in protest against the outcome of May 21presidential polls, events which have been dominating the country’s airwaves.
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