BLANTYRE (Malawi Democrat) –Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) have ordered and switched off three private radio stations off air as government say the channels are being used to incite violence.
Authorities put off air private radio stations MIJ 90.3FM, Capital Radio and Joy Radio .
The owner of Capital Radio, Alaudin Osman, said the authorities had ordered the station to stop live broadcasts because they were allegedly aggravating the situation.
A letter from the Director General of Malawi MACRA, Charles Nsaliwa called for stoppage of the broadcasts with immediate effect in the interest of what he described as the security of the nation and in line with broadcasting laws.
Nsaliwa claimed that the reports of the demonstrations by some broadcasters had been: amplifying and aggravating the problem.
The order was also extended to Zodiak Radio.
But Macra Thursday switched off Capital Radio, Joy Radio and MIJ and the owners told to report at Chichiri, Blantyre southern region police headquarters, according to private practice lawyer Ralph Kasambara who posted on his Facebook page.
Malawiâ€™s leading online publication Nyasa Times has also been blocked from being accessed since demonstrations started.
Editor of Nyasa Times, Thom Chiumia, told BBC on July 20 during Have Your Say programme from London that the website has been â€œhackedâ€.
Thugs reported to be pro-government earlier this week smashed one vehicle and torched another belonging to Zodiak radio.
The protest broke out in several cities but the deaths occurred in Mzuzu, some 300km (185 miles) north of the capital, Lilongwe.
On the reportage and coverage that the Malawi media accorded the demonstrations, MISA Malawi has issued a statement commending the media fraternity in the country for the wonderful and courageous coverage of the events of Wednesday, 20 July.
“Specifically, the coverage of the nationwide mass demonstrations has been super and excellent in both the electronic and print media,” said MISA Malawi acting chairperson Anthony Kasunda.
MISA Malawi commends media coverage
He said MISA Malawi is thrilled with private radio stations live coverage which gave the public almost minute-to-minute account of the events on the streets of the country.
“This information was vital as it kept the public abreast of what was going on and helped them make informed decisions and security precautions,” he said.
But the media body decried the act by MACRA which it says curtailed live coverage of the demonstrations.
“This was very unfortunate; MISA Malawi will be taking up the issue with MACRA management,” he said.
MISA Malawi also expressed its pleasure with the coverage of the demonstrations in print media despite some journalists working under threats from the police who beat them as well as civil society leaders.
“We would like to commend every journalist for the brevity shown in discharging our duty professionally. As promised yesterday, we are also taking up the issue of beating journalists with the inspector general of police,” Kasunda said.
The media body, nonetheless appealed to the media fraternity to continue working as a team, insisting that if any journalist has information of either more harm to media practitioners or impending arrests, they need to share it across to alert the other.
“Rumours of arrests are making rounds and let us be on the guard but do not feel intimidated. We have a duty to the public,” said Kasunda.
The Human Rights Consultative Committee, a group of more than 80 rights groups, organised the nationwide marches on Wednesday to protest President Bingu wa Mutharika’s handling of the economy and what activists call his growing autocratic tendencies.
Organisers said Malawi was facing its worst political and economic crisis since independence 47 years ago.