Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter today joins the international community in commemorating World Press Freedom Day with a call for a conducive working environment that guarantees press freedom in the country.
Misa Malawi Chapter chairperson Teresa Ndanga said in a written response on Monday that the media environment was not any better in the past year as attacks on journalists were still being reported.
She said most of the attacks on journalists were perpetrated by institutions with a constitutional mandate to protect Malawians and enforce laws. She described the situation as worrisome.
Said Ndanga: “Although cases of media freedom violation went down as compared to 2020, the hostility continued and all cases of physical attacks on journalists in the year  were perpetrated by police officers.”
She said in 2021, police officers physically attacked three journalists while in the line of duty. She said two others were arbitrarily arrested and questioned in the process of gathering information as well as over published articles.
According to Ndanga, one journalist was arrested for allegedly publishing offensive communication.
She said in 2021, reports of media censorship became prominent with reports of some politicians interfering with content in some media outlets.
While describing such a situation as sad, Ndanga said press freedom comes under threat, especially with censorship, whether self or external.
Meanwhile, President Lazarus Chakwera says he is committed to ensuring a conducive working environment for journalists.
Through presidential press secretary Anthony Kasunda, the President said a free press ensures that the citizenry is well informed which is critical in a democracy.
Chakwera said: “No citizen can be said to be truly free in any country whose press is not free. The extent to which citizens enjoy their God-given right to information on any matter that interests them or satisfies them depends on how freely the press access that information and supply it to the people.”
Minister of Information and Digitisation Gospel Kazako, who is also the o f f i c i a l government spokesperson, asked to be called at a later time. However, he did not pick up our subsequent follow-up phone calls and neither did he respond to our questionnaire sent via WhatsApp.
Meanwhile, Misa Malawi is scheduled to hold celebrations marking the World Press Freedom Day on May 7 2022 in Nkhata Bay District.
This year’s World Press Freedom Day is being celebrated under the theme ‘Journalism Under Digital Siege’.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), the theme puts into perspective multiple ways in which journalism is endangered by surveillance and digitally-mediated attacks on journalists and consequences of all this on public trust in digital communication.
A latest Unesco World Trends Report Insights discussion paper titled ‘Threats that Silence: Trends in the Safety of Journalists’ highlights how surveillance and hacking are compromising journalism and that it can expose information gathered by journalists, including whistleblowers.
In 1993, the UN General Assembly declared May 3 as World Press Freedom Day following a recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of Unesco General Conference in 1991.