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‘Press govt on information law’

United Nations Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo has urged the media in the country to put pressure on government to show its commitment on Access to Information Bill and Table Mountain Declaration.

Speaking in an interview with The Daily Times at the Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi gala in Mzuzu on Saturday, Seppo stressed the need for government to fulfill its promise on freedom of the press.

“The Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture was not detailed enough on the issue of the bill and on Table Mountain Declaration. There is need for government to treat this issue with urgency,” said Seppo.

But Seppo was quick to urge the media to sensitise the public about the bill to appreciate that it also concerns them.

She, however, commended government for improving on the freedom of the press. She said according to the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom index, Malawi has been ranked number 59 out of 180 countries in the world increasing by 14 steps from position 73 in 2014.

“In Africa, Malawi is number 10 on the 2015 index out of 48 African countries which were assessed based on pluralism, media independence environment, self censorship, legislative framework, transparency, infrastructure and abuses,” she added.

Head of European Union (EU) Marchel Gerrman commended Malawi for showing its commitment to support openness and transparency through the drafting and the eventual introduction of Access to Information Bill.

“The EU and those present today look forward to positive news in the near future on the enactment of the bill,” Gerrman said.

On his part, Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa said government is committed to ensuring that there is total media freedom in the country.

”Government recognizes the importance of media freedom. It is against this back ground that government is now looking into the Access to Information Bill properly and I am also an interested party and I am working very hard with different stakeholders including Misa Malawi on the issue for its enactment,” said Nankhumwa.

He, however, said it is not the work of the Ministry of Information, Tourism and Culture alone hence the need for the media to campaign for the bill.

But Misa chairperson Thom Khanje said they are already doing a lot to put pressure on government to treat the bill issue with urgency.

“We have been currently doing a number of programmes on television stations and even on radios. We have also been conducting meetings with various stakeholders even with the Minister of Justice and all have been promising us. However, we still need the support of all Malawians,” said Khanje.

The commemoration of World Press Freedom Day started with a march from Obrigado Leisure Park through M1 Road to St John of God Hall where a debate under the topic: “Access to Information in Malawi;

Progress, Challenges and way forward” took place. Football and netball matches between Mzuzu media stars and Lilongwe and Blantyre counterparts followed where the former won.

Misa Malawi also held its Annual General Meeting at the same venue before holding the dinner at Grand Palace where different journalists were awarded in various categories for their work.

Times Group journalists Gregory Gondwe won Business and Economics Award journalist of the year while Charles Mpaka scooped the Best ICT award. Rachel Mhango was awarded the best maternal health reporter in electronic category.

Times TV head of news and current affairs Gracian Tukula emerged the best columnist while Brian Banda was pronounced the best Talk Show presenter. Agnes Mizere emerged the best blogger.

The late veteran journalist Edward Chitsulo w a s posthumously declared Life Time Achiever for the year.

Zodiak Broadcasting Station was crowned as the best electronic media house while Nation was crowned best print house media of the year.

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