Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter has decried the oppression of the media by authorities and other powerful forces in society, saying it threatens free press.
Speaking on Saturday at Chintheche in Nkhata Bay during the 2022 Misa Malawi Media Awards Gala, Misa Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga said authorities and other forces suppress the media because they know that journalism is a powerful tool.
She said: “Despite the existence of laws that protect journalists and guarantee press freedom, we are worried that authorities continue to side with perpetrators as attacks continue with impunity.
“We are worried of a continued tendency of institutionalised State intimidation of journalists through the application of archaic and draconian laws.”
Ndanga said there is also a growing tendency of high ranking officials, including Cabinet ministers, intimidating journalists in the course of duty.
“This is sad and uncalled for, especially when we have a President whose public pronouncements have been nothing but commitment to upholding press freedom and freedom of expression,” she said.
Ndanga said Misa Malawi has since January this year registered 10 media violations cases, including eight of intimidation and harassment by Malawi Police Service.
She further said six private citizens have since January 2021 been arrested because “their views were deemed critical of the President”.
Minister of Information and Digitisation Gospel Kazako said government is committed to protecting freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
But he was quick to caution the media to exercise such freedoms with responsibility by ensuring they do not infringe on the rights of others.
the minister also said it is disheartening to hear that some journalists engage in corrupt practices.
Kazako said: “It is disappointing to note that journalists are becoming corrupt. This should be a big concern. Misa should find a way to end this. Journalists have been pointing fingers at politicians as corrupt, now if they are corrupt, who is to provide checks and balances?”
During the awards, Times Group scooped a double of best print media house and best electronic media house (television) while Zodiak Broadcasting Station maintained its grip on the best radio station award and newly-formed Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ) won the best electronic media house in online category.
Nation Publications Limited (NPL) journalists dominated the individual awards as they won nine in the print media category against seven for Times Group.
However, Times Group’s tally of individual awards hit 14 after combining three platforms of newspaper, radio and television as well as the institutional awards.
NPL investigative journalist Bobby Kabango led the night with three awards in categories of Green Journalist of the Year, Reporting Supply Chain of Essential Medicines and Public Infrastructure Journalist.
NPL features editor James Chavula went away with the Urban Water Development Journalist of the Year Award while Arts and Entertainment editor Edith Gondwe, whose column Candid Talk went viral for her entry ‘Can you do me a favour?’, won the Columnist of the Year Award.
The Sports Journalist of the Year Award went to NPL’s senior news analyst Joy Ndovi while news analyst Clement Chinoko scooped the Adult Learning and Education Journalist of the Year.
News analyst Frank Namangale and Nation on Sunday deputy editor Bright Kumwenda jointly won the Water and Sanitation Journalist of the Year Award.
Former NPL business news analyst Dumbani Mzale won the Sustainable Development Goals Journalist of the Year Award for his work published before he left.
Former NPL investigative journalist Golden Matonga, who now works with PIJ, went away with two awards, Investigative Journalist of the Year and Overall Journalist of the Year.
The gala awards are held annually as part of the commemoration marking the World Press Freedom Day which falls on May 3. This year’s celebrations were held under the theme ‘Journalism under Surveillance’.