Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Malawi media crackdown

According to the Nyasa Times, Malawi's parliament has approved an amendment to the penal code that gives the government the right to close down, indefinitely, any publication deemed to be "contrary to public interest". This after the president not too long ago threatened to close down media outlets that criticized his administration.

In the past few months, the president of Malawi has fired his deputy, ordered police to shoot to kill, suspended the entire Malawi Electoral Commission (with the effect that repeatedly-postponed local government elections scheduled for this year may not be able to take place) and is attempting to enact laws that would reinstate local courts, raising fears of a return to the past situation where traditional courts were used to shut down opposition.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa plans to challenge the constitutionality of the new laws (amendments?) and it is possible that they will not be used to crack down on the media but it is always worrying when a government has the power to stifle free speech.

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