As MISA Malawi joins the rest of the world in celebrating the 2021 World Press Freedom Day [WPFD], Government has been called on to end threats, attacks and arbitrary arrests against journalists.
MISA Malawi notes that journalists who are supposed to be sources of reliable information are under unwarranted attacks from authorities, state institutions and sometimes the general public.
The media body says since January 2020, 20 journalists have been physically assaulted, threatened, arbitrarily detained and questioned in the line of duty, a development that threatens the constitutionally guaranteed media freedom.
In the statement dated 03rd May 2021 signed by its Chairperson, Teresa Temweka Ndanga, says these attacks not only create fear in journalists but have the potential of compromising the quality of information as they force journalists to self-censor.
MISA Malawi says unfortunately, Government has failed to bring to book and prosecute any of the attackers, despite having an obligation to ensure safety and security of every Malawian saying the perpetrators of crimes against journalists continue committing such crimes as they seem to be immune to prosecution.
In the statement, MISA Malawi is urging journalists and media houses to be responsible in their work and serve public interest and not political or corporate interest saying the media must strive to be ethical in accessing and disseminating information.
The media body says on this 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration that birthed the World Press Freedom Day [WPFD], it is praying for economic freedom for the media in Malawi saying while it is acknowledging the negative impact of the Covid-19 on the country’s economy.
It says the Malawi Government needs to fasten economic environment that effectively supports the sustainability of the media sector saying media outlets cannot provide reliable information when they are struggling in the prevailing weak macro-economic environment.
…”The economic challenges are also a wake-up call for media companies to think of innovative ways of sustaining their operations and providing reliable information to their audience…,’’ reads the statement in part.
The statement says the 2021 World Press Freedom Day being celebrated under the theme ‘’Information as a public good’’ is also an opportunity for the media in Malawi to self-reflect and take up a leading role in the fight against disinformation, misinformation and hate speech by providing accurate and hate free information all the time.
On this special day, MISA Malawi is calling upon media houses to introduce in-house policies to protect women from sexual abuses at the workplace, acknowledging the recent revelations by a Malawi Human Rights Commission [MHRC] investigation that found former MBC Director General Aubrey Sumbuleta guilty of sexually harassing some female employees.
The media body says while the investigation and ongoing court case on the matter are likely to shape the fight against sexual harassment at the workplace, it is urging media houses to establish policies that would encourage victims to open up and the institutions to remedial action that assures victims of access to justice.
By Vincent Gunde