Attorney General (AG) Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda has pledged to repeal archaic laws under the Protected Flag, Emblem and Names Act during the next sitting of Parliament.
The AG made the pledge on Friday during a debate organised by Misa Malawi as one of the activities to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. The day was commemorated under the theme Journalism Under Surveillance.
The panellists, who included Misa Malawi chairperson Theresa Ndanga, Times Group journalist Wonder Msiska, human rights activist Charles Kajoloweka and Mzuzu University lecturer Precious Madula, discussed how to stop State surveillance on journalists and private individuals.
Amid the heated debate, some urged government to stop State surveillance on journalists while others argued it was impossible to stop the practice and another group called on government to do so within the law.
At this point, Chakaka-Nyirenda said his office was working on repealing archaic laws under the Protected Flag, Emblem and Names
The laws were meant to safeguard the dignity of the Head of State, the National Flag, the Armorial Ensigns and the Public Seal to discourage their improper use for professional, commercial and other purposes.
Chakaka-Nyirenda said he was instructed to have the laws repealed.
However, the AG said surveillance is all over across the globe and governments do it for security purposes.
He said he was in agreement with those suggesting that surveillance should be done within the law.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) director Gift Trapence, who was also part of the debate, asked the AG to state clearly when the laws will be repealed.
“You have not come out clearly when this will be done. Please, tell us. Mind you, these laws are still being used and people are being arrested,” he said.
In response, Chakaka-Nyirenda said the repealing of the laws will be done during the next sitting of Parliament.
“As I said, I received instructions on this, be assured, this is going to happen,” said the AG.
However, he said not everything under this Act will go, saying some laws could be old but still good and others new but bad.
In his contribution, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) director general George Kasakula said people should not deceive themselves that surveillance can be stopped.
He urged media houses and journalists to invest in equipment to defend themselves from surveillance.
Kasakula said surveillance is not only done by the State, but also private individuals.
“Technology keeps changing and people will always find a way to invade private conversations. What we should be fighting for is investment in equipment to defend ourselves,” he said.
Commenting on the matter, Kajoloweleka said State surveillance on journalists and private individuals has no space in a democratic Malawi.
His view was supported by Ndanga and Msiska who agreed that if surveillance were to be done, then it has to be within the law. They also supported the repeal of the archaic laws.
Yester night, Misa Malawi awarded journalists and media houses in different categories at a function that took place at Sunbird Chintheche in Nkhata Bay.
The journalists, who also enjoyed support from some stakeholders, had a fundraising relay race from Mzuzu to Nkhata Bay, a distance of 50 kilometres.