End impunity for crimes against journalists, Mr. President: MISA Malawi Chairperson
"There is a spirit of impunity that continues to grow. We need arrests-we need prosecutions and people need to know that attacking a journalist is a crime," MISA Malawi Chairperson Teresa Ndanga said.
MALAWI: MISA Malawi Chairperson Teresa Ndanga has urged President Lazarus Chakwera to end impunity for crimes against journalists in the country, and ensure that government officials, including cabinet ministers, keep their hands off the media by putting an end to media censorship, and respect freedom of expression as a prerequisite for democratic participation.
The MISA Malawi Chairperson said this on Tuesday, 3 May 2022, during a Breakfast organised by the president for Malawian media practitioners at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, as journalists commemorated 2022 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).
Teresa stated that it was unfortunate that journalists are constantly being attacked, both physically and verbally, but that no one has been arrested or prosecuted.
"We have tried to enlighten the public, including the police officers, politicians and their supporters, sometimes ordinary Malawians, Inspector General of police, Secretary Generals of political parties, on the importance of safeguarding media freedom but it is sad that nobody has been prosecuted,” she said.
Despite the implementation of the Access to Information (ATI) Law, Ndanga emphasized the difficulties in obtaining information from government organs such as the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
"There is a spirit of impunity that continues to grow. We need arrests-we need prosecutions and people need to know that attacking a journalist is a crime,” she said.
President Chakwera stated in his remarks that freedom of the press and freedom of expression means that people will write or say things that will offend or embrace people from time to time, but this does not give anyone the right to take the law into their own hands.
He said: "We must each regulate ourselves to ensure that any time a journalist publishes something or a social commentator says something, we never react in a manner that infringes on their freedom to do so. This principle of self-restraint applies to me, every public official, every agency of the state, and every citizen. Freedom of the press and freedom of expression means that from time to time someone will write or say things that offend or embarrass us, but that does not give any of us the license to “deal with them”.
The President spoke about his personal determination and the government's commitment to preserving and defending constitutional provisions on media freedom and free expression.
"We too can write and say something to defend ourselves, and if we feel our name and reputation have been unjustly defamed, we can even complain to regulatory bodies and the courts that follow strict rules of justice, but we must never seek to harm those who offend us in this way or try to deprive them of their freedom through illegal searches, seizures, arrests, or invasive acts like hacking, harassment, and cyberbullying. These things have no place in a free country,” Chakwera said.
Gospel Kazako, Minister of Information and Digitalization, stated that his ministry will ensure that the media operates and functions independently and freely, that information flows freely, and that people are empowered with critical information to make informed decisions in support of various government development projects.