Malawi’s Minister of Information and Civic Education Moses Kunkuyu on Tuesday appealed for cordial ties with the media a day after President Joyce Banda lashed out at the media, saying she stopped reading local newspapers because they are full of hatred against her.
In a statement apparently released to mend fences after Banda’s outbursts, Kunkuyu said government appreciates the role of the media to provide checks and balances on those in authority.
Reads the statement: “Government would like to reassure the media that it is still committed to ensuring respect for media freedom and freedom of expression in the country. Furthermore, the current leadership highly values the constructive checks and balances that the media provide towards decision-making processes by those in authority.”
He said government still stands by steps it has taken to repeal draconian laws such as Section 46 of the Penal Code which empowered Information Minister to ban publications and further commitment to passing the long awaited Access to Information Bill.
On Monday, Banda told a Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter delegation which met her at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre that she was surprised that the media wanted her to promote their issues when they were busy fighting her.
The delegation went to lobby Banda to sign the Table Mountain Declaration which proposes the abolition of insult laws in Africa ahead of the World Press Freedom Day, May 3.
The declaration, made in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2007, calls for the repeal of criminal defamation and ‘insult’ laws across the African continent. It was adopted at the World Newspaper Congress.
However, Misa-Malawi chairperson Anthony Kasunda described Kunkuyu’s statement as only nice to the ear, saying the country’s media expects tangible efforts by government to promote media freedom.
He said: “We wish government could put to practice what it is saying. Government can only demonstrate commitment to promoting media freedom in the country by signing the Table Mountain Declaration which requires governments to abolish insult and defamation laws. That was the whole essence of our meeting with the President.”