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Macra summons MBC over ‘terrorist’ remarks

SIGNED THE STATEMENT—Itaye

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has invited Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to a hearing on issues surrounding the reference of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) as a terrorist group in one of the State broadcaster’s bulletins and some remarks made in one of the broadcaster’s programmes regarding the alleged Msundwe rape case.

In a letter dated January 20 2020 and signed by Macra Director General Godfrey Itaye, the communications regulator invites MBC to a hearing Tuesday January 28 2020 at the former’s office in Blantyre.

“We found the above to be unprofessional and lacking the seriousness which the public broadcaster should always strive to maintain, considering ‘your’ additional obligations under Section 109(1) of the Communications Act, 2016.” reads part of the letter.

The letter also informs MBC that Macra is in possession of a recording of the broadcaster’s On the Agenda programme of January 10 where a guest in reference to the alleged Msundwe rape case described rape as something which is done with consent of the victim.

Macra says such remarks could encourage the crime of rape and violence against women contrary to Section 2(b) of the second schedule to the Communications Act, 2016 and regulation 22(1) (c) of the Communications (Broadcasting) Regulations, 2019.

“The broadcast (In the bulletin) contained material that was abusive and insulting as well as likely to prejudice the public order and tranquility which contravenes Section 22(a) of the second schedule to the Communications Act, 2016 and regulation 22(1)(a) of the Communications (Broadcasting) Regulations, 2019,” the statement adds.

Several attempts to call MBC Director General Aubrey Sumbuleta proved futile as he did not pick up his cell phone.

In a news bulletin broadcast on January 16 2020, an MBC news reader is heard referring to HRDC, which has been organising nationwide demonstrations since the disputed May 21 presidential elections, as gulu la za uchifwamba (a terrorist group).

And in another programme called On the Agenda, a guest is reported to have described rape in Malawi as something which is done with the consent of the victim, in reference to the alleged abuse of women by police offices at Msundwe, M’bwatalika and Mpingu areas in Lilongwe.

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