Media Institute of Southern Africa- Malawi (Misa- Malawi) has appealed to Members of Parliament to reject the Communications Bill describing it as an adulterated bill due to the omission of some recommendations and general consensus from various stakeholders.
The Cabinet shot down some of the amendments to the Bill, among them the proposal to reduce the President’s powers to appoint boards for Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra).
In a statement, Misa- Malawi chairperson, Thom Khanje, said the institute has learned with disappointment that the Communications Bill, as forwarded to Parliament from Cabinet, contains significant changes that defeat the whole essence of reviewing the Communications Act of 1998.
The 1998 Act has been faulted for the various challenges the country’s communications and broadcasting sectors are facing and the review was meant to iron out such challenges.
“In particular, Misa- Malawi is disillusioned to learn that the government has reversed stakeholders’ proposals in the draft bill which removed the Head of State as the sole appointing authority for the boards and management of the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) and the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
“The independence of both Macra and MBC was key in the review of the Communications Act of 1998. By maintaining the state president as the appointing authority for the boards and management of the two institutions, the cabinet has effectively rendered the review of the law useless,” Khanje said
He said the bill, as presented to cabinet, took into account emerging issues in the communications and broadcasting sector as well as the need to align regulations in the sector with progressive democratic principles as enshrined in the country’s and international standards.
“Misa-Malawi, therefore, appeals to honourable members of Parliament to reject the adulterated Communications Bill as it is not in line with recommendations and general consensus from various stakeholders who participated in the drafting of the bill as presented to Cabinet through a broad-based and thorough consultative process.
“We also call upon the government to recall the bill from Parliament and revert it to its original form as discussed and agreed to by all stakeholders as it represented the broadest views among Malawians on the desired operations of Macra and MBC as institutions that are critical to the country’s democracy and development,” he said.
Government spokesperson Jappie Mhango said the Cabinet considered that the changes would not be consistent with the provisions of the Constitution which gives the President sole appointing powers.
But Khanje said the changes that the stakeholders made are also in line with the country’s Constitution which is based on principles of multiparty democracy and encourages equality and impartiality in the utilisation of public broadcaster or other communication institutions.
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