Global human rights defender, Amnesty International (AI), has expressed shock and disappointment over attacks some governments and individuals direct at the media, thereby threatening and diluting press freedom in southern Africa.
AI expressed the sentiments in a statement ahead of the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day today (May 3).
The release by AI Southern Africa secretariat lamented that persistent attacks against journalists and media owners are threatening press freedom and the growth of independent media across southern Africa.
AI said the disturbingly brazen attacks on press freedom have a chilling effect on those working in the media, who are usually targeted simply for exposing the truth.
AI regional director for southern Africa Deprose Muchena said the attacks are weakening independent journalism and rolling back the hard-won media freedom fought for since colonial times.
He implored authorities across southern Africa to urgently reverse the persecution that has led to the closing down of various media houses.
Citing some country-specific incidents in the region, in Malawi, the release pointed to an incident where Teresa Chirwa-Ndanga, a journalist working for privately-owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station, was intimidated by security personnel at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe in October 2016 as she covered President Peter Mutharika’s press conference.
But in his reaction yesterday, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi, who is also government spokesperson, said members of the press enjoy the freedom to report on anything because of the prevailing freedom of expression in the country.
He stressed that the government will endeavour to provide a conducive atmosphere for media personnel and all other Malawians to work and live freely.
The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression.
The freedoms are enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and articulated in subsequent international and regional human rights treaties. n