May 8th, 2018: Malawi commemorated the World Press Freedom Day on 4th and 5th May 2018 with a call to enhance the role of the media in the forthcoming 2019 Tripartite Elections and consolidating the country’s democracy.
The commemoration, held in Blantyre, was organised by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter (MISA Malawi). It involved several activities including a freedom march, media awards ceremony and discussions on press freedom topics such as investigative journalism and role of the media in elections in Malawi.
At the media awards ceremony, the United Nations in Malawi announced introduction of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Media Awards to promote media reporting on sustainable development in the country. Two journalists, Albert Shara of Nation Publications and Thomas Kachere of MIJ FM Radio, became the first winners of the SDGs Media Awards for their stories on education and gender equality, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), respectively. Each got a grant of US$2,000 to enable them pursue their next SDGs stories.
UN Resident Coordinator, Maria Jose Torres, said the UN values excellence, hence, the introduction of the awards to recognise outstanding media work contributing towards achievement of SDGs in Malawi.
“In the era of SDGs, the role of the media to achieve sustainable development is even more pronounced. Our focus is on promoting leaving no one behind in the development process to ensure development reaches all people including the poorest and most marginalised,” said Torres.
She also encouraged the media to promote conflict-sensitive reporting so that it plays conflict prevention and peace building roles during the electoral process.
The United States Ambassador, Virginia Palmer, said her government supported the commemoration and media awards because freedom of expression and a free media are the strongest pillars of democracy.
Palmer commended the Malawi media for its vibrant investigative journalism, saying investigative reporting leads to action, empowers Malawi’s accountability institutions, and inspires Malawi’s citizens to demand greater transparency and accountability.
MISA Malawi Chairperson, Teresa Ndanga, said Malawi has improved on the World Press Freedom Index from position 70 in 2017 to 64 in 2018 out of 180 countries, saying the improvement resulted from the recent enactment of an Access to Information law, which she said need to be enforced without further delays.
Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Nicholas Dausi, said Malawi Government will continue striving to enhance media freedom in the country.
All guest speakers acknowledged Malawi for its achievements in freedom of expression related to the Access to Information Act and the country’s upward movement on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, urging the Government to take all necessary steps for the law to get into effect.