The Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter yesterday held a round-table discussion with Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) about its suspension of live phone-in programmes on radio stations last week.
Following the meeting, Macra has promised to lift the suspension by the end of next week.
Misa-Malawi argues that the suspension is an infringement of freedom of expression and may lead to loss of revenue for broadcasters.
In a statement dated June 7 2019 signed by Macra director general Godfrey Itaye, the regulator states that it noted with regret the conduct of some broadcasters indulging themselves in careless and unethical coverage of post-election events.
The authority highlighted that such broadcasts have potential to incite the masses into violence.
Itaye cited the provisions of licences in the Communications Act which stipulates that radio stations should not broadcast any materials which are indecent or obscene or offensive to public morals… or likely to prejudice the safety of the republic or public order and tranquility.
However, Misa-Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga said the body as an advocate of freedom of expression, was concerned and requested the authority to lift the suspension.
She said: “Phone-in programming is one of the media format for broadcasting and the suspension has led to change in the programming, leading to loss of revenue. Macra has promised to lift the suspension by end of next week because they want to first take the issue to the Macra board.”
Ndanga also said they appealed to Macra to discuss with media houses where it feels there is a breach of the Communications Act and advise them accordingly other than imposing a blanket suspension.
“They know the stations that breached their licences and it wasn’t fair to just put a blanket suspension. When they lift the suspension and we see the conditions, we will then decide what to do next because we are not yet sure whether the lifting of the suspension will be wholesale or in part,” she said.
The Misa-Malawi chairperson further said the organisation has been monitoring its members election coverage and the only reports it received were that some broadcasters were favouring certain candidates in their coverage.
The institute plans to come up with a comprehensive report on election coverage next week.
Macra director of broadcasting Fegus Lipenga refused to comment when contacted yesterday, referring the matter to Ndanga.
Section 5 (2) g of the Communications Act gives Macra powers of monitoring the activities of licencees to ensure compliance with terms and conditions of their licences and applicable regulations and related activities.
The meeting constituted a team from Macra led by Itaye and Lipenga, the Misa-Malawi chairperson, vice-chairperson Clifton Kawanga, national director Aubrey Chikungwa and lawyer Mandala Mambulasa.