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Tonse Alliance Administration urged to improve access to information and protect freedom of expression
Regarding freedom of expression, Theu acknowledged that the government has repealed sedition laws in the Penal Code and that the media and the general public can engage freely with government.
Malawi: The Tonse Alliance administration needs to address gaps in access to information, freedom of expression, and freedom of association and assembly, according to recommendations by the Youth and Society (YAS), writes Tionge Hara.
In her presentation titled The State of Civic Space Under the Tonse Alliance Administration, YAS’s Program Coordinator for Human Rights and Civil Society, Mwandida Theu, praised the government for implementing the ATI law and creating a dedicated unit within the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to oversee it.
She also noted that some public institutions have appointed information officers as required by law and that the government has introduced a public portal for registering companies that provide services to the government.
However, Theu also pointed out that enforcement of the appointment of information officers is lacking, and that the MHRC is insufficiently funded and lacks resources to disseminate information to the public, including people with disabilities and special needs.
Regarding freedom of expression, Theu acknowledged that the government has repealed sedition laws in the Penal Code and that the media and the general public can engage freely with government officials.
However, she also highlighted that laws such as the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act and laws criminalizing defamation still limit freedom of expression, and called for their review.
In terms of freedom of association and assembly, Theu commended the government for removing the mandatory registration for NGOs and CSOs with the Council for Non-Governmental Organizations in Malawi (CONGOMA) and for providing for the regularization of partnerships between local and international NGOs through the NGO Amendment Act.
However, Theu also noted that there have been reports of government interference in the activities of civil society organizations and called for an end to such actions.
"The Tonse Alliance Administration has made some progress in ensuring access to information and protecting freedom of expression and association, but there is still much work to be done," said Theu.
"We urge the government to take the necessary steps to address these gaps and ensure that the rights of citizens are fully protected."
The YAS report also covers the gains and gaps in the area of freedom of association and freedom of assembly.
The report states that the mandatory registration for NGOs and civil society organizations (CSOs) with the Council for Non-Governmental Organizations in Malawi (CONGOMA) has been removed, and the NGO Amendment Act 2022 has provided for the regularization of partnerships between local and international NGOs.
However, the YAS report also notes that there are still some barriers to freedom of association and assembly, including a lack of regulations for the registration and operation of foreign NGOs and a lack of clear guidelines for the exercise of freedom of assembly.