Reporters Without Borders protested today against a government order that community radio stations stop broadcasting news bulletins and called for the law to be changed to ensure freedom of expression.
"We fear this move is aimed at gagging these stations," said the organisation’s secretary-general, Robert Ménard, in a letter to Malawian President Bakili Muluzi objecting to the 3 June order by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority which said news broadcasts would contravene section 51(3) c of the Communications Act.
The country’s community radios are the only ones providing balanced news and giving opposition supporters any voice, while the government-owned Television Malawi and the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation are mouthpieces of the ruling United Democratic Front.
Reporters Without Borders noted that sections 35 and 36 of the national constitution guaranteed freedom of expression and media freedom and called on Muluzi to remove section 51(3) c from the Communications Act to make it comply with the Constitution.
The ban affects the Catholic Church’s Radio Maria, as well as Radio Islam, Transworld Radio, Radio Calvary Church and MIJ FM, a station founded by the Malawi Institute of Journalism that had already been threatened with loss of its broadcasting licence in June last year for putting out news.