The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter would like to commend government for repealing section 46 of the Penal Code, which empowered the Minister of Information to ban publications deemed not in the public interest.
Section 46 of the Penal Code was amended in November 2010 amidst consternation amongst media freedom and freedom of expression watchdogs, civil society and the donor community that the amendment was unconstitutional and retrogressive for Malawi’s nascent democracy.
The amendment, which was assented to by late President Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, drew the wrath of both local and international civil society and human rights defenders who petitioned late Mutharika not to support the amendment to no avail. The Bingu administration maintained that the amendment was democratic and in line with Malawi’s Constitutional order.
Commenting on the repeal, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chairperson Anthony Kasunda described the repeal as ‘dawn of a new era.’
“This is what we wanted. The repeal is a sign of maturity and commitment to constitutionalism by the new administration,” said Kasunda.
Kasunda commended the Members of Parliament for taking a bold step to support the government’s move to repeal section 46.
The repeal follows a call from President Joyce Banda for Parliament to repeal laws that are repressive and deny Malawians their constitutional right to freely express themselves and to seek and receive information without fear or hindrance.
Banda made the call when she opened the 43rd Session of Parliament in the Capital Lilongwe on Friday May 18, 2012.
Banda said: “I’m calling on parliament to repeal all repressive laws that were enacted in the previous regime. Such laws have tarnished the image of our country to the outside world.”
So far, only Section 46 of the Penal Code has been repealed.
There are, however, other pieces of legislation that are inconsistent with Section 35 and 36 of the Constitution which provide for free speech and media freedom respectively.
These laws include Sections of the Protected Places and Names Act, Sections of the Police Act, Official Secrets Act and Censorship Act.
MISA MALAWI CHAPTER