Malawi | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Malawi

Malawi

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

55

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

22

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

17

Freedom of speech and of the press are constitutionally guaranteed, although these rights are occasionally restricted in practice. The government does not exercise overt censorship, but freedom of expression in Malawi is threatened in more subtle ways, resulting in some self-censorship. The Protected Emblems and Names Act prohibits insulting the president and threatens violators with fines and prison terms. In March, two journalists-The Nation's Mabvuto Banda and Raphael Tenthani of the BBC-were arrested under the Act after writing articles reporting that President Bingu wa Mutharika was not sleeping at the presidential statehouse because it was haunted by ghosts; both were released on bail shortly afterward. In September, Capitol Radio petitioned the high court to declare the Act unconstitutional; the case was pending at the end of 2005. Journalists are also 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 coalition. In January, Daily Times reporter Collins Mitka was beaten by Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) supporters while covering an AFORD press conference; AFORD was then a member of the ruling coalition.

The print media represent a broad spectrum of opinion; 10 independent newspapers are available, and of the 8 major papers in circulation, 6 are privately owned and most are editorially independent. However, the independent media have come under substantial political pressure. In December, the Office of the President and the Cabinet accused five journalists working for independent newspapers of being hired to write articles to discredit President Mutharika and other high-ranking government officials. The state-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) operates the country's 2 largest radio stations, and there are approximately 15 private radio stations with more limited coverage. State-owned Television Malawi is the country's only television station. State-run media generally adhere to a pro-government editorial line and grant opposition parties more limited access. In December, the MBC did not air an opposition Malawi Congress Party press conference despite the fact that the party had paid for the airtime. 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 with access at less than 1 percent of the population, it is not widely used.