Freedom of the Press

Malawi

Malawi

Freedom of the Press 2007

2007 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

53

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

20

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 is threatened in more subtle ways, resulting in some self-censorship. The Protected Emblems and Names Act prohibits insulting the president, which may result in fines and prison terms. A case was filed by Capitol Radio to declare the act unconstitutional; however, the case has been pending since September 2005. Journalists are also subject to occasional restrictions and harassment.

In May 2006, President Bingu wa Mutharika fired his attorney general, Ralph Kasambara, two days after the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)–Malawi asked Mutharika to protect the good relations he has with the media. Earlier, Kasambara had made headlines after he ordered police to arrest three journalists at the Chronicle for defaming him. The journalists had published a story exposing MISA–Malawi’s suspended national director, Charles Simango, as having tried to sell a laptop previously stolen from a Reuters photojournalist. Throughout the year, a number of other journalists faced harassment at the hands of security personnel, often after they had criticized public officials. A number of unofficial attempts at censorship occurred surrounding the visit of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe in May. Reporters from the Chronicle were barred from attending Mugabe’s arrival ceremony for fear their coverage would reflect badly on the administration.

The print media represent a broad spectrum of opinion; 10 independent newspapers are available, 6 of which are privately owned and not politically affiliated. The state-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) operates the country’s 2 largest radio stations, and there are approximately 15 private radio stations with limited coverage. State-owned Television Malawi (TVM) is the country’s only television station. State-run media generally adhere to a pro-government editorial line and grant opposition parties limited access. In 2006, the Malawi Parliament approved only half of the funding for the MBC and TVM, accusing the two state broadcasters of bias toward the government and the Democratic Progressive Party. The National Assembly said the rest of the funding for the two institutions will be approved only if they improve their coverage. Independent radio broadcasters receive no support from the state in terms of advertising revenue, and all equipment must be imported and paid for in U.S. dollars. There are no restrictions on the internet, although with access at less than 1 percent of the population, it is not a major source for news.