- Malawian community radio stations have been told by the government to stop airing its news reports, which include critical reporting. Government holds these broadcasters are not allowed to "hijack the role of public broadcasters."
On Monday, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) ordered community radio stations to stop airing news bulletins, saying the Communications Act forbade such stations from running news programmes, the Windhoek-based Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) reported today.
Macra Director General Evans Namanja spoke at a two-day international workshop on the promotion of community radio stations. "News is supposed to be for the general public and not a particular community. By broadcasting news, the community radio stations are hijacking the role of public broadcasters, such as the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and Television Malawi (TVM)," said Namanja.
Macra's statement is based on Section 51(3) c, which bars community radio stations from "broadcasting news services and factual programmes." However, Sections 35 and 36 of the Malawi Constitution provide for freedom of expression and the press, MISA researcher Zoe Titus comments.
MISA's Malawi chapter (Namisa) is leading community radio stations in condemning Macra's action. Namisa described the statement as "unconstitutional" and further called for an "immediate repeal" of the section to bring the Act in line with constitutional provisions.
According to Ms Titus, this is not first time that Macra has told community radio stations, especially the Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ 90.3 FM Radio), to stop airing news bulletins.
On 13 June 2002, Namanja wrote to MIJ 90.3 FM Radio, warning that it risked losing its licence if it continued airing editorial comments and newscasts on its frequency, which he said were inconsistent with its broadcasting licence.
An outcry from the media in Malawi however forced Macra to back-pedal on its statement within a few days.
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