Malawi | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Malawi

Malawi

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

54

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

22

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

16

Freedom of speech and of the press is constitutionally guaranteed and is generally respected in practice. While the government does not exercise overt censorship, freedom of expression in Malawi is threatened in more subtle ways, resulting in some self-censorship. The print media represent a broad spectrum of opinion; of the eight major newspapers in circulation, six are privately owned and most are editorially independent. The state broadcaster operates two radio stations, and there are approximately four community and three commercial radio stations. The state-owned Television Malawi is the country's only television station. Independent radio broadcasters receive no support from the state in terms of advertising revenue, and all equipment must be imported and paid for in dollars. Import duties and high taxes imposed by the state threaten the economic viability of independent commercial broadcasters. There are no restrictions on access to the Internet, although it is not widely used.

Journalists are subject to occasional restrictions and harassment, and there have been a number of attacks on the press in recent years, allegedly committed by members of the Young Democrats, a group linked to the ruling United Democratic Front. While the situation improved somewhat in 2004, the government restricted the opposition's access to state-owned media during the period leading up to and immediately after elections in May. A week before the election, the state-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation stopped the broadcast of an interview with opposition presidential candidate Justin Malawezi owing to his sharp criticisms of the government. Just three days after the presidential polls, police arrested four journalists from the community radio station MIJ 90.3 after host Arthur Chokotho interviewed an opposition spokeswoman who accused the ruling party of stealing the elections. All four were released without charge within 24 hours. The station was shut down for a week, until the country's high court ordered it reopened. The Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) has since sued the government for loss of income resulting from the closure. In addition, journalists perceived as hostile to the ruling party report being excluded from presidential press conferences and other official functions.