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About: FW: Malawi: broadcasting freedom concerns

Thu, 24 Jul 97 01:01:00 PDT

Originally from:
Originally dated: Thu, 24 Jul 97 01:01:00 PDT

The following is from the IFEX COMMUNIQUE # 6-28, 22 July 1997
** ** **


The Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Act (MBC Act) and the
allocation of private broadcasting licences raise freedom of
expression concerns, say ARTICLE 19 and the Civil Liberties
Committee (CILIC) in the paper, "Broadcasting Law in Malawi". The two
groups submitted the paper, which also lists several recommendations
for new broadcasting legislation in Malawi, to Justice Elton Singini,
the Malawi Law Commissioner. "Broadcasting Law in Malawi" is one of a
series of papers dealing with media law and practice in countries
belonging to the Southern Africa Development Cooperation (SADC). The
series was launched by ARTICLE 19, the Freedom of Expression Institute
(FXI) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).

The MBC Act, which governs public as well as private
broadcasting, also establishes the Malawi Broadcasting
Corporation (MBC) and regulates its powers, functions and duties,
write ARTICLE 19 and CILIC. However, both groups fear that editorial
independence at MBC is compromised, since, they point out, "the
Minister [responsible for broadcasting] may require broadcasters to
include in their broadcasting, at any time the Minister considers
relevant, `such items of general interest, utility or public concern,
as the Minister may from time to time determine.'" ARTICLE 19 and
CILIC further point out that the Minister may, whenever necessary,
prohibit broadcasting which "would be contrary to the public
interest." "Such power," they write, "is unacceptable as it may lead
to prior censorship."

Both ARTICLE 19 and CILIC are also concerned that the current
procedure for granting broadcasting licences is neither
independent nor objective. They report that, at present, the
Minister responsible for broadcasting is the sole authority which
grants licences. Moreover, the Minister may, according to the MBC Act,
"at any time cancel or refuse to issue or to renew a broadcaster's
licence...." The exact grounds on which the Minister can make a
decision are not specified in the MBC Act, write ARTICLE 19 and CILIC.
They add that the MBC Act also does not contain a predetermined set of
objective criteria which would apply equally to all those who seek to
obtain a broadcasting licence. ARTICLE 19 and CILIC write, "The
absence of such criteria therefore makes it possible for the
allocating authority to come to arbitrary decisions."
** ** **

The IFEX "Communique" is published weekly in English, French and
Spanish by the IFEX Clearing House, Toronto. The facility is
operated by the Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists (CCPJ)
in partnership with the member organizations of the International
Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX). Contact the IFEX CH at CCPJ,
490 Adelaide Street West, Suite 205, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 1T2,
CANADA; Tel: (1-416) 703-1638; Fax: (1-416) 703-7034; or E-mail: WWW site: "Communique" Editor:
Kristina Stockwood, with David Cozac this week. Subscriptions are
available by e-mail and surface mail. The views expressed in the
"Communique" are the responsibility of the sources to which they are
Bruce Girard Agencia Informativa Pulsar
Fono/Fax: +593-2-501 180 o 551 674
Fax en Montreal, Canada: +1-514-221-2009
Av. Atahualpa 333, Casilla 17-08-8489, Quito, Ecuador

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