Government commits to uphold media freedom

Malawi’s President, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, has affirmed his government’s unwavering dedication to upholding media freedom, ensuring journalists can write and publish without fear of interference, as the nation marked World Press Freedom Day.

Speaking during a presidential breakfast at Kamuzu Palace to commemorate the 2024 World Press Freedom Day, President Chakwera emphasized the need for journalists in the country to freely tell stories that will inspire a change.

The Malawi’s Head of State added that his government will support the media in telling the positive stories.

“Malawi is a free country, and its freedom includes that of the press which is enshrined in the highest laws of our land. So, mine is an appeal to you to use this freedom to tell better stories that advance our nation’s interests, stories that add value to our pursuit and prosperity, stories that preserve our nation’s pride and help in the fight against climate change,” stressed President Chakwera.

Chakwera: My government will uphold media freedom in the country

In an interview after the breakfast, Minister of Information and Digitalization, Moses Kunkuyu, reiterated the President’s commitment to a free media environment, emphasizing the importance of the tradition of inviting the media to breakfast on World Press Freedom Day as a symbol of fostering a collaborative relationship.

“The president did say that his government remains committed to ensuring that the media in the country operates in a free environment. What is becoming a tradition now where the president invites the media to a breakfast as part of the world press Freedom Day commemorations is not a thing that is prescribed in the books but it is a tradition that the president has brought about to show his commitment that he wants the media to be a friend,” said Kunkuyu.

Kunkuyu further outlined measures to maintain a constructive relationship between the media and the government, stressing the importance of freedom accompanied by responsibility.

He addressed concerns of arbitrary arrests of journalists, acknowledging isolated incidents but highlighting the need for responsible journalism.

“Freedom comes with responsibilities. If there is a body that ought to know about this, then that’s the media. While on the same, I emphasized that when we have also gone wrong ourselves as the media, we should also learn to come back and say here we did not do very well. I gave examples. We have one country. So, it also comes to the same issue of responsible journalism that I talked about. But otherwise, we cherish the relationship that we have,” added Kunkuyu.

A cross section of journalists during the presidential breakfast at Kamuzu Palace

In her words, Chisomo Ngulube, Vice Chairperson of MISA Malawi, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to engage with the President over breakfast, emphasizing the importance of media freedom as the country approaches the 2025 elections.

Ngulube stressed the importance of journalists reporting on political matters impartially and involving citizens in election coverage to avoid instances of intimidation or violence.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to have breakfast with the President because we were able to present our expectations as the country goes towards the 2025 elections. We expect that journalists will be able to operate in a free environment so that they can be able to cover the elections freely and fairly,” said Ngulube.

The MISA Malawi Chapter Vice Chairperson also highlighted the necessity for journalists to operate in an environment free from intimidation and fear to cover the elections impartially, stressing the need for fairness in reporting on politicians and urged journalists to actively engage citizens to ensure their voices are heard during election coverage.

“We also expect of journalists that they will also be fair in their coverage of politicians and to engage citizens, to hear the voices of citizens as they cover the elections. We do not want to seek cases of violence where journalists are intimidated and are afraid to do the work that will benefit our democracy, that will benefit our nation,” stressed Ngulube.

Ngulube: media freedom is critical as the country goes to polls in 2025

Ngulube also voiced concerns about the obstacles impeding media operations in the country, citing laws like criminal defamation as hindrances, highlighting instances of journalist intimidation under such laws, hindering investigative reporting crucial for democracy.

Additionally, Ngulube urged for the reinstatement of opportunities for journalists to hold press conferences and interview the President, stressing the significance of such access in representing the public’s interests.

This is the third time since assuming the highest office in June 2020 that President Chakwera has hosted the journalists to a breakfast during World Press Freedom Day and has donated K5 million towards the finishing of Misa’s Mtolankhani House project.

Every year on the 3rd of May, World Press Freedom Day is observed globally, with this year’s theme being ‘A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the face of the Environmental Crisis’, highlighting the crucial role of media, particularly journalism, in protecting the environment.

However, MISA Malawi has opted for a local theme, ‘Guardians of Democracy: Championing Media Independence for Credible Elections’, underscoring the significance of a free and independent media in ensuring fair and credible elections, sustainable development, and democracy.

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