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Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

267 would enable

267 would enable newspaper readers to compare coverage and realize which newspapers are more credible and beneficial for democratic growth. 8.5.3 Respect for the Law and Freedom of Expression Another way of doing away with such biased framing as exposed in this study is for those who deal with the press to fully respect the country‟s laws, especially the Constitution which provides for a free press and freedom of speech and expression. Ever so often law enforcement officers and government officials have not fully respected these provisions. Journalists have been victims of illegal actions by these officials including imprisonment. In some cases, government has withheld advertisement from some newspapers as a form of punishment for being critical. The case of the BNL newspapers and the Chronicle between 1998 and 2000 is a good example. The NPL newspapers have faced similar action since 2009. Further, the government has been reluctant to bring to parliament the proposed Freedom of Access to Information bill which would permit free access to public records. President Bingu wa Mutharika also signed into law an amendment of Section 46 of the Penal Code which permits a cabinet Minister to argue for the ban of a publication despite receiving requests from the United Nations urging him not to do so as this amendment contravenes Section 36 of the Constitution on freedom of the press i . According to Berger (2007, p.152), these failures to fully comply with the law may lead to cynicism on the part of some journalists: . . . the resulting journalism also feels unconstrained to respect the law, the consequent coverage further fuels governmental intolerance – and the use by authorities of laws – including non-media laws, to clamp down (p.152).

268 Thus, the government must lead by example by abiding by the law in order to avoid the development of opportunistic and cavalier approaches to the law by journalists. As Berger (2007) notes, the challenge is to change deeply entrenched non- transparent and control-oriented political and journalistic cultures into more open tolerant ones. The following section attempts to present some recommendations that could alleviate the conditions that lead to such lop-sided framing of important political issues. Journalists, press regulators, and owners in Malawi need to understand the role of the press in a democracy. Further, they need to understand better the law and the provisions of the law regarding the press. In this respect, journalism training programs in Malawi have an important role. Journalists and media practitioners who are already in the field need to share comparative information including standards for professional practice, media policies and law. Thus, relevant bodies such as the MCM, JAMA, and the local chapter of the MISA would be important agencies. Such information could be disseminated through professional seminars and regular publications. The Malawi Chapter of MISA holds annual award ceremonies which recognize professionalism in journalism. Apart from encouraging competition among journalists, this encourages the development of a professional spirit. The public and the press need to be acutely aware of the constitutional provision for a free press inherent in Malawi‟s Constitution. Further, the public and the press must be made aware of the international conventions on press freedom which the government has voluntarily signed. Some of these include Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa. An increased

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