By Nyasa Times
Published: February 12, 2011
Minister of Gender, Child and Community Development Theresa Mwale, has accused the media in Malawi of being “irresponsible” hence, the government could not repeal the repressive media ban law
President Bingu wa Mutharika recently assented to the bill that gives the minister of information the power to ban any newspaper or publication which he finds not in the public’s interest.
The assenting followed the Parliament’s amendment of Section 46 of the country’s Penal Code which previously only banned the importation of publications that are not in line with the public’s interest.
The amended law now reads: “If the minister has reasonable grounds to believe that the publication or importation of any publication would be contrary to the public’s interest, he may, by order published in the gazette, prohibit the publication or the importation of such publication.”
A ‘strong woman’ in the cabinet of President Mutharika, Mwale the Gender Minister, told a news conference that government wants to gag the country’s media because it is irresponsible.
“The fact that we are here talking about this means we do not have a responsible media which knows what to publish and what not to publish,” Mwale said.
“When you make criticisms against Government on the law you should look at it both ways because we want the nation to benefit as well,” she added.
Presidential spokesperson, Hetherwick Ntaba, said Mutharika could not be faulted for assenting the bill on publications.
The head of a local media watchdog criticised the Mutharika administration for signing off on the bill.
“The media in Malawi is under siege and the hard-won democracy under extreme threat,” said Anthony Kasunda, chair of the Malawi chapter of the watchdog group Media Institute of Southern Africa.
He said the law could be “construed as a strategic move by government to deliberately target publications that are critical of the Mutharika administration.”
Mutharika, who often accuses local independent newspapers of negative reporting about Malawi, last year threatened to shut down papers he accused of lying when they reported that up to one million people would need food aid.—(Reporting by Wanga Gwede, Nyasa Times)
Labels: PRESS FREEDOM