Monday, 7 February 2011

All fun and games 'til someone's human rights are violated

While the world laughs and gasps at the strange story of Malawi's proposed 'farting ban', Germany and the US are beginning to pay attention to the more serious problems which are starting to emerge in Malawi. Malawi had previously been granted US$350 by the US Millennium Challenge Corporation. The money is intended to overhaul Malawi's weak and outdated energy sector, particularly in terms of power supply, which has been erratic, in order to stimulate economic growth.

Rumour now has it that the US is planning to reverse this grant in protest against the recently-passed media laws which give the government the right to shut down media outlets that publish information that is 'not in the public interest'. It is unclear whether the US will really go through with this move, which is possible based on the conditions of the grant, which require a demonstrable commitment to just and democratic government. Germany last week cut aid to the country by half in response to the media laws being passed.

Also on Sunday, a journalist was arrested for taking pictures of the police beating up a thief. The police in the country have recently be exhorted to 'shoot down criminals' caught red-handed.

The 'farting laws' may seem comical but they are part of a series of moves that have caused Malawian law experts and democracy activists to express serious concern. I've blogged before about the somewhat worrying goings-on in Malawi before, here, here and here.

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