|Official Country Name:||Republic of Malawi|
|Region (Map name):||Africa|
|Area:||118,480 sq km|
|GDP:||1,697 (US$ millions)|
|Number of Television Stations:||1|
|Number of Satellite Subscribers:||100|
|Number of Radio Stations:||16|
|Number of Radio Receivers:||2,600,000|
|Radio Receivers per 1,000:||246.5|
|Number of Individuals with Computers:||12,000|
|Computers per 1,000:||1.1|
|Number of Individuals with Internet Access:||15,000|
|Internet Access per 1,000:||1.4|
Background & General Characteristics
Malawi is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The main towns are Blantyre (pop. 350,000), Lilongwe (250,000), Mzuzu (80,000) and Zomba (70,000). Malawi's economy is based on its agriculture, which accounts for 40 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), 90 percent of export revenues and 90 percent of rural employment. Malawi gained its independence in 1964 from Great Britain and until 1993 the country remained under the authoritarian rule of Dr. Kamuzu Banda. In May 1994, President Banda lost the presidential election to the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Bakili Muluzi. Muluzi was re-elected in 1999 to serve another five-year term as president in the country's new democracy. Malawi has eleven ethnic groups, namely Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian, and European. The official languages are English and Chichewa, but there are other regional dialects. The World Bank estimated that Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world.
From independence in 1964 to 1992, the only sources of news in Malawi were two newspapers ( Daily Times and the weekly Malawi News ), put out by the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and the Malawi News Agency. During that time, there was no constitutional provision for freedom of expression or of the press. The news media was pro-government and pro-Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the ruling party. Since 1994, the situation has changed. As of 2002, Malawi had 11 independent newspapers: two dailies— The Nation and Daily Times ; seven weeklies— New Vision , Weekly Chronicle, StatesmanMalawi NewsWeekend Nation , Enquirer , and UDF News ; one government-owned biweekly— Weekly News ; one privately owned weekly paper, The People's Eye ; and finally, The Mirror , published four times a week. There is no Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) in Malawi to certify the sizes of circulation for newspapers and magazines (Fumulani). Newspapers circulate in urban areas, which have about 10 percent of the country's population, while only a few trickle to the rural areas. The World Bank reports that daily newspaper circulation in Malawi is 3 per 1,000 people.
After 30 years of one-party rule, Malawi became a multi-party democracy. The political transition was smooth in 1994, but the results of the presidential elections of July 1999, which returned Muluzi as president, have been continually contested, and genuine democratic processes have not yet fully taken root. The mass media is still government-controlled and trade unions have limited power.
Malawian economy prospered in the 1970s with the assistance of foreign aid and investment and grew at an annual rate of 6 percent. This growth did not, however, spur broad-based economic development. In 2002, agriculture remained the basis of Malawi's economy, contributing 40 percent of GDP and 90 percent of rural employment, while tobacco, the main cash crop, accounted for more than two-thirds of exports. Malawi's limited natural-resource base, combined with poor physical and financial infrastructure, a slow-moving bureaucracy and rising crime, has made it less able to attract foreign investment. Thus, Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 159 out of 162 countries on the United Nations' UNDP Human Development Index ( HDI ). Malawi's poverty headcount (percent below poverty line) was 66 percent in 1998 (World Bank).
There is a willingness on the part of many journalists to disseminate information and offer the Malawian public an alternative but the media face a number of constraints such as the practical problems of sourcing newsprint; the costs of printing; the weak production infrastructure; unfavorable finance and tax arrangements; indifference or hostility to emerging media; lack of spare parts, supplies and advertising; and high taxes on equipment (Banda).
The economy itself is not stable: the inflation rate grew from 9 percent in 1997 to 30 percent in 2000, increasing printing costs. Newspapers were priced higher in order to recover these costs, ultimately two or even three times the original cost. The adverse effect was that many readers ended up not buying any newspaper. Another problem that affects media owners is the ever-increasing costs of newsprint. One newspaper owner explained that it was difficult for many newspapers to survive economically, but they managed probably because they had committed teams who made great sacrifices. At one time they relied on family members to assist with loans since local banks saw media as bad business. Only newspaper companies that have political backing and have enough financial resources remain in the media market.
Radio in Malawi, the most effective form of media, reaches nearly 90 percent of the population of 11.3 million. However the state-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) dominates radio broadcasting. Newspapers only circulate in towns while a few trickle to the rural areas.
In 1994, Malawi said goodbye to dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda when Bakili Muluzi defeated Banda in the country's first democratic elections since its gaining independence from Britain in 1964. When Malawi became a multi-party democracy in 1994, the government guaranteed freedom of the press in the new constitution that superseded old laws restricting the press and now provided for freedom of speech and press. Although the new Malawian law maintained that "the press shall have the right to report and publish freely within Malawi and abroad, and to be accorded the fullest possible facilities for access to public information," practice did not always correspond to principle. Some restrictive laws have remained in place. The Official Secrets Act, for instance, makes it an offense to publish or communicate "any secret official code, work, sketch, plan, article or other document that could be useful to the enemy." Thus any journalist reporting on security issues runs the risk of committing offense. Further, it is an offense to write with the intent of wounding the religious feelings of others or to produce, print, publish, import, possess, or circulate matter that is considered obscene. Libel is also a crime in Malawi, and according to one Malawi Broadcasting Company worker, "A mere negative joke about the ruling party can cost someone a job here." Under the 1994 Communications Act, MBC was subject to the discretion of the controlling government minister regarding its content, and the minister was empowered to require MBC— or any private broadcaster—to broadcast certain materials or prohibit broadcasts that would be contrary to public interest.
In November, 1998, Parliament passed a new Communications Act, which for the first time established an independent regulatory body for broadcasting and telecommunications: the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA). This Act replaced the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Act and the Radio-communications Act of 1994. The newly established MACRA, an independent body, was charged with ensuring "reliable and affordable communication services" throughout the country. Under the bill, MACRA is responsible for protecting the interests of consumers, promoting open access to information, promoting competition, and providing training in communication services. It is also required to be independent and impartial while doing so. In regards to broadcast media, MACRA is also responsible for ensuring regular news programming on issues of public interest, supporting the democratic process through civic education, promoting a diverse range of national and local broadcasting and ensuring equal treatment in elections. The passing of a new communications bill gave a ray of hope to Malawian journalists.
Whether the bill has had any positive impact on the environment is still unknown, especially in regards to ensuring equal access and treatment among the political opposition. In March 2000, the UK-based organization Article 19 unveiled evidence of media manipulation during the 1999 presidential election campaign, identifying two misinformation teams that helped the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) party use illegal advertisements and fabricate news reports to ensure re-election. The report also contended that during the 1999 election campaign, the state-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation ran live coverage of only President Muluzi's political rallies.
During the Banda regime there was no such thing as press freedom; journalists lived in fear and constantly had to self-monitoring their writing. The government maintained control of the press with the Prohibited Publications Act. This Act allowed the government to ban any publication that it considered false or critical of Malawi (Banda). No outside journalists were allowed into the country at this time.
President Bakili Muluzi's government came into power promising an end to censorship and other human rights abuses. In 1995 a new constitution was put together after Banda was voted out of power by the United Democratic Front. The constitution had articles covering the following topics: 1) The protection of free expression; 2) The protection of free opinion; 3) The right to have access to information and 4) The freedom of the press. However, Muluzi's new democracy failed to ensure full press freedom. A 30-year legacy of self-censorship among journalists remained strong, and many preexisting laws remained in conflict with the new democratic provisions (Cooney). Government officials continued to issue negative statements against the media. Muluzi threatened through the overzealous offices of his press assistants to take several journalists to court on civil defamation charges.
Just before the 1999 elections and soon after that, there were incidents of open threats by politicians to dismiss from the civil service and statutory organizations any media practitioner deemed to be supporting the opposition or leaking information to the press. Journalists had been detained for short periods of time since the 1994 election. The editor of the main opposition newspaper, the Daily Times , was suspended in 2000 by the editor-in-chief and subsequently replaced by an acting editor more inclined to refrain from publishing articles critical of the government. The government continued to threaten and harass members of the media. The Daily News offices were raided by the army because of an article they published stating that AIDS percentages were higher in the army than the civilian population. On several occasions, politicians have threatened to take newspapers and their reporters to court. In late 2001, the Chronicle was fined a total of over US$37,000 by the courts in lawsuits, one involving a case in which the newspaper speculated on possible misconduct by a minister in his work.
State-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) is the most important medium for reaching the public. MBC programming was dominated by reporting on the activities of senior government figures and official government positions. Parties and groups opposed to the government largely were denied access to the broadcast media. MBC reporters were disciplined or fired for their reporting on opposition parties. News stories were pulled in midbroadcast and press conferences heavily edited to avoid dispersing politically sensitive material. MBC refused to air paid public announcements of labor union events.
There are now a number of private newspapers in Malawi, including some owned by political parties or openly affiliated with them. Publishers are not required to register with the state, although the Minister of Information does give accreditation to journalists. After 1994, for the first time, there were more than 20 newspapers in Malawi. Many independent newspapers that were established did not survive for more than two years. Major reasons cited by most publishers were poor financing, high newsprint and printing costs, poor skills in managing a newspaper business, and lack of trained newsroom staff. The following newspapers were short-lived: The New Voice, The WatchersThe MalawianMichiru SunCity Star , Financial ObserverWeekly MailNews TodayThe Herald , New ExpressDaily Monitor , and The Democrat , which collapsed in 1996. The Independent and The Star were phased out in 1999 because of lack of support from influential politicians. Four of the newspapers, The Malawi News and The Daily Times (both owned by the late president Banda's business empire), and the Nation and Weekend Nation (owned by Aleke Banda, the country's agriculture minister and first vice president of the ruling UDF) have remained the strongest players with a reasonable impact on the market. The Mirror (owned by Brown Mpinganjira, the country's foreign minister and prominent personality in Muluzi's UDF) has survived the turbulent times in the newspaper publishing industry.
Government has also stretched its arm to suffocate the private media by banning government advertising in the Daily Times and the Malawi News , Malawi's strongest opposition newspapers. Government is the biggest advertiser in the country, and advertising is the major source of revenue for all newspapers in the country. The ban occurred after the independents The Daily Times and Malawi News published critical coverage of government mismanagement and corruption. Journalists for private publications are said to face "constant harassment" from the state, and many journalists use pseudonyms (Banda).
Attitude toward Foreign Media
Under the dictatorship government of President Banda, no foreign journalists were allowed into the country at all. After the first democratic government in Malawi, foreign correspondents had free access to Malawian affairs. However, it would appear that supporters of the government are extremely sensitive to foreign reports about Malawi. Banning or jailing of foreign correspondents by the Malawian government has not been an issue. Visitors from the following countries are not required to have visas: United States, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Belgium. Visitors from the following countries are required to carry visas that expire after three months: Algeria, Angola, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Libya, Mexico, Morocco, Russia and other Eastern European Countries, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Spain, Sudan, and Zaire.
Foreign ownership of Malawian press is discouraged. Business may be conducted by individuals, partnerships, trusts, Malawian companies, branches of foreign companies, or through joint ventures, i.e., foreign and Malawi owned. A branch of a foreign company must have at least one Malawian resident as its director.
The oldest news agency, the Malawi News Agency (Mana), has its head office in Blantyre and offices in Mwanza and Mzuzu. The other news agencies, Daily Times and Weekly Malawi News , are both located in Blantyre. One foreign news bureau is located in Blantyre, Agence France-Presse (France).
The biggest printing press, Blantyre Print and Publishing, belongs to the business empire of the late president Kamuzu Banda. It prints both newspapers and books. This press has been in existence since 1962 when Banda bought it from the Paver brothers who sold Banda both the press and the Nyasaland Times (forerunner to the Daily Times ). The other major printing press in the newspaper sector is owned by Aleke Banda's Nation Publications, Ltd. Besides these, there is a chain of small printers dotted around the country, most of them owned by Indian business tycoons.
As part of the previous regime's control of the air-waves, television broadcasting was banned until 1994. Prior to 1994, Malawi had a single state-controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) radio station, which covered the whole country, and a small private religious broadcaster that had a radius of 20 kilometers (km) from the capital, Lilongwe. Today Malawi has two government controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) radio stations, two commercial stations broadcasting in Blantyre, a community radio station in Monkey Bay, a private training-commercial radio station, three religious stations, and seven private radio stations. As of 1999, there were 2.6 million radios in Malawi. The state-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) dominates the radio market with its two stations, transmitting in major population centers throughout the country. News coverage and editorial content clearly are pro-government. Radio in Malawi reaches nearly 90 percent of the 11.3 million people living there. Only one television station exists in the country, the state-controlled Television Malawi (TVM), which was established in 1998. Fewer than 100,000 of Malawi's 11.3 million people own television sets.
Malawi Broadcasting Corporation has a two-channel radio network currently broadcasting for 19 hours for Radio 1 and 24 hours for Radio 2 each day. Radio 1 broadcasts in English, Chichewa, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, and Tonga. Broadcasts are available on medium wave, short wave, and FM frequencies. Radio 2 broadcasts in English and Chichewa on FM stereo. The news coverage of these two stations is basically the same. The first private station, FM101, broadcasting to a radius of about 70 km from Blantyre, began operating in 1998. The second privately run station, Capital Radio 102.5, also based in Blantyre and reaching an area of 60 km around the city, took to the airwaves in 1999. The two
The government-controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation still dominates radio broadcasting in Malawi. All new stations that wish to establish a radio station have to get a license from MACRA, which is responsible for regulating the provision of broadcasting, licensing of broadcasting providers and planning and allocating the use of the frequency spectrum. MACRA has the discretion to limit foreign ownership of companies receiving licenses and to limit the proportion of airtime devoted to advertising, provided that such limitations are applied equitably.
According to the new Communications Act of 1998, the MBC must operate without political bias and independent of any political party. It must support the democratic process, refrain from broadcasting any matter expressing its own opinion on current affairs, provide balanced election coverage, and have regard for the public interest. Licensing of private broadcasting before 1998 was the responsibility of the postmaster-general, who was a senior civil servant within the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, Posts and Telecommunications. Since no criteria or procedure existed for licensing in broadcasting, in practice the minister had all the power. The new bill, by contrast, established clear criteria and a formal procedure for issuing licenses in all areas, as well as establishing an independent body to oversee them.
The single television station in the country, the state-controlled Television Malawi (TVM), is a public broadcaster, its goal to "foster unity and development [and to] provide civic education and information." The station
With no private companies to make commercials and only a small TV market, TVM has had many financial problems. In spite of that, however, TVM announced in March 2000 its plans to extend coverage to 100 percent of the country by year's end. As of 2002, however, the station reached only about 70 percent of the country.
Electronic News Media
MalawiNet, the main Internet Service Provider (ISP), was established in 1997 as the only commercial Internet Service Provider. MalawiNet is jointly owned by ComNet of USA (42 percent), Malawi Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (MPTC) (38 percent), and Bj Trust of Malawi (20 percent). The MPTC later liberalized the market, allowing private ISPs to obtain their own connections, either via MalawiNet's POPs in Lilongwe or Blantyre or via a direct international link from MPTC. At the end of 2001, Malawi had 8 ISPs. News organizations in Malawi cannot afford publishing through the Internet because of limited resources. Only The Nation has an Internet site that publishes their news: http://www.nationmalawi.com/ .
Education & TRAINING
The Malawi Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, offers undergraduate studies in journalism. The Malawi Institute of Journalism, an affiliate of the University of Malawi, was established in 1996. The institute offers diploma and certificate courses in journalism. A number of private schools run by professional journalists were also opened in the late 1990s. Among these are Pen Point School of Journalism, Norman Communications Centre, and Grefa Communications.
Major media organizations and associations are the Journalists' Association of Malawi, the Malawi Media Women's Association, the Media Council of Malawi and a chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA). The MAMWA has played a major role in attracting a female audience to radio. One of MAMWA's significant achievements is the Dzimwe Community Radio Station in Monkey-Bay District, which was licensed in 1997. The station covers a radius of 95 kms and reaches 3.2 million listeners. Mindful of the fact that most people within this community live below the poverty line and cannot afford radios and batteries, MAMWA asked them to form listening clubs in order to increase access to radio sets. Radio listeners clubs are set by women media professionals who organize rural women into groups that meet once a week to debate a theme that directly affects their lives. The discussions are recorded and presented to government officials, community authorities, and representatives of non-governmental organizations for replies that are also recorded. Discussions and replies are broadcasted by the Dzimwe Community Radio Station.
In May 2002, Malawi's largest daily newspaper, The Nation , underwrote a new national Young Sports Journalism Award as part of an initiative to identify and develop new sports writers. The competition is designed for practicing junior journalists but is also open to anyone who aspires to the field.
The autocratic, repressive Banda regime prior to 1994 crippled Malawi's media. The country's democratic government, voted into power in 1994, caused some exciting developments in the media industry between 1994 and the close of the century. From the single state-controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), which covered the whole country, and a small private religious broadcaster with a radius of 20 km from the capital, Lilongwe, Malawi had as of 2002 two private stations based in Blantyre, a community radio station in Monkey Bay, and a second FM channel on MBC, called Radio 2. From two state owned newspapers in 1994, the country has experienced a bloom of new independent newspapers. The poor state of the Malawian economy and the deplorable attitude of most reporters and editors who refuse to stick to the ethics of the profession remain serious problems facing media development in Malawi. These are aggravated by the fact that most of the newspapers in the country, including the two dailies, are owned by politicians and lack independent editorial judgment and policies. Bakili Muluzi has improved things in the media, but there is still a hint of the autocratic system in the air especially in the manner with which the media are dealt. It is hoped that Malawi will move to a more independent broadcast media and greater autonomy for the MBC as a public broadcaster.
- 1994: Malawi became a multi-party democracy, the first government guaranteed freedom of the press in the new democratic constitution.
- 1998: The state-controlled Television Malawi (TVM) was established.
- 1998: Parliament passed a new Communications Act, which for the first time established an independent regulatory body for broadcasting and telecommunications: the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA).
Banda, Zeria. "The Malawi News Media," Master's thesis, Ball State University, Indiana, 1998.
Cooney Brendan. Malawi Media Report . Grahamstown, South Africa: Rhodes University, 2001.
Reporters Without Borders. Malawi: Annual report 2002 . Available from http://www.rsf.fr/ .
USAID. USAID's Program in Malawi , 2002. Available from http://www.usaid.gov/country/afr/mw/ .
World Bank. World Development Indicators , 2000. CDRom, World Bank, Washington, DC.