The High Court in Lilongwe has deferred to Friday this week its ruling on an application for an injunction Media Institute in Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter obtained against the ban of phone-in radio programmes.
However, the judicial review of the case will start on October 15 before Justice Ruth Chinangwa.
Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) effected a ban on phone-in programmes aired by radio stations which are not using gadgets that relay a delayed feedback.
But Misa-Malawi and a number of radio stations that include Times Radio, Zodiak Broadcasting Station and Capital Radio applied for an interlocutory injunction to restrain Macra from effecting the ban until the court makes its determination.
Presiding over the hearing of the application in the chamber on Monday, Chinangwa said the court will deliver the ruling this Friday to allow the two sides to present some relevant documents.
Lawyer representing Misa-Malawi John Suzi Banda said in an interview that Macra listed only two radio stations—Times and Pentecostal—in its affidavit when there are about 80 radio stations in the country.
He said: “We argued in court and the judge asked us to provide copies of judgements where such decisions were done before by our courts here and anywhere else. At the same time, the court raised a number of issues with Macra and it has asked it to provide a list of the allegedly offending radio stations.”
On his ppart, lawyer for Macra Kingsley Mapemba said Macra will be back in court this Friday.
He said: “The court is yet to look at the material before it. We will be back in court on Friday to appreciate the court’s reasoning. We will do the given assignments in the next 48 hours.”
Macra effected the ban on June 7 following Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) one million march held in the country’s cities to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to step down for allegedly mismanaging the May 21 presidential poll results.
The demonstrations were covered live by several radio stations, with some giving an opportunity to listeners to make phone calls to give their views on the issue.
Misa-Malawi argues that the suspension is an infringement of freedom of expression and may lead to loss of revenue for broadcasters.
But in a statement dated June 7 2019 signed by Macra director general Godfrey Itaye, the regulator states that some broadcasters were indulging in careless and unethical coverage of post-election events which has potential to incite the masses into violence.
However, Misa-Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga said the body as an advocate of freedom of expression, was concerned and requested the authority to lift the blanket suspension and deal with individual radio station involved. n