The United States (US) has honoured outgoing US public affairs officer Benjamin Canavan for his role in the fight for press freedom in Malawi at the height of the former president Bingu wa Mutharika repression.
US charge dâ€™affaires Lisa Vickers presented the Department of State Superior Honour Award to Canavan at a farewell event in Lilongwe on Wednesday night.
â€œCanavan has earned the award for helping to find meaningful ways to promote press freedom, freedom of expression and provide training to many sectors of Malawi civil society, good governance and constructive dissent,â€ said Vickers.
Canavan was also praised for his â€œpublic diplomacy leadership, vision and superb programme planningâ€ in the peaceful transition in Malawi.
He arrived in Malawi at the time the Mutharika regime was out to silence dissenting views, by among others, enacting anti-media and anti-dissent laws.
Said Canavan in an interview: â€œI will never forget the three-page press statement from State House trashing the media and civil society.â€
He was referring to a scathing statement authored by Mutharikaâ€™s press officer Albert Mungomo which attacked the media for giving the late president what he called ridiculing names.
Canavanâ€™s farewell event was organised by Museaa, an association of US alumni which also benefited from his dedication to good governance.
â€œMuseaaâ€™s hard work has earned it recognition from the State Departmentâ€™s Office of Alumni Affairs as a model association in Africa and beyond,â€ said Vickers.
Established to unite locals who have trained and visited the US on different government programmes, Museaa undertakes several outreach projects such as HIV and Aids prevention, youth development, food security and climate change, among others.
Museaa Lilongwe chapter chairperson McBride Nkhalamba said projects carried out by the association have changed lives in the targeted communities.