The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has suspended all radio phone-in programs in the country on grounds of what the authority described as careless and unethical coverage of post-election events.

MACRA issued the ban on Friday in a statement signed by its Director General, Godfrey Itaye, in which he said the regulatory body had noted the development in some broadcasters with regret.

“The authority would like to inform broadcasters that programs have the potential to incite the masses into violence,” reads the statement.

The regulatory body has warned that it will continue executing its broadcasting monitoring mandate during this period saying it shall not hesitate to invoke regulatory sanctions to any broadcaster who will deliberately breach the law.

“MACRA further advices all broadcasters to comply with the code of conduct for broadcasters as stipulated in the Communication Act which among other things stipulates that broadcasting licencees shall not broadcast any material which is indecent or obscene or offensive to public morals,” explains the statement.

But Malawi Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter, Chairperson, Teresa Ndanga, has described MACRA’s directive as violation of freedom of press in the country.

“MISA finds MACRA’s decision unwarranted and a very serious violation of media freedom and freedom of expression, which the supreme law of the country, the Malawi Constitution, fully recognises,” wrote Ndanga in a statement released Friday.

She said it was surprising and worrying that the regulator had decided to unlawfully punish all broadcasters, their listeners and the general public with an unjustified suspension of all phone-in programs.

“Thus MISA Malawi calls on MACRA to immediately reverse its suspension of phone-in programmes,” wrote Ndanga, adding: “As has been the case, we expect MACRA to discipline the few who may have breached their broadcasting licenses.”

“We, however, expect that that process will follow all the due procedures where, among others, the media houses are also given the right to be heard,” it said.

MISA has cautioned that MACRA should not use its regulatory mandate to stifle Malawians’ right to know and freedom of expression.

The national media watchdog has since called upon all broadcasters to remain professional and ethical in their duties and respect the demands of their broadcasting licenses.

For the past days some supporters of the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) have been demonstrating disputing the May 21 elections where the incumbent president Peter Mutharika was declared winner claiming the polls were rigged. Enditem



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