* Malawi Media Freedom Committee was formed some weeks ago at the suggestion of WAN-IFRA itself
* Its role is to bring local media professionals together to find common solutions
* We intend to offer locally driven solutions for more effective, high impact and long-lasting change
By Duncan Mlanjira
In celebrating World Press Freedom Day today, May 3, Malawi Media Freedom Committee has been accepted as a chapter for World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) — a regional and global network of media professionals which is committed to standing for quality journalism and press freedom while respecting diversity and plurality of voices.
Malawi Media Freedom Committee was formed some weeks ago at the suggestion of WAN-IFRA itself, as disclosed by current chairperson Gracian Tukula.
Tukula leads the committee of Mbauwo Chavula as secretary, Josephine Phumisa as treasurer with other members being Francis Tayanjah Phiri, Emmanuel Chibwana, Chisomo Ngulube and Habiba Osman.
“In broad terms, the role of Malawi Media Freedom Committee is to bring local media professionals together to find common solutions to the most important media freedom challenges,” Tukula said.
“As MFC Malawi we are expected to set our own agenda and priorities. We intend to offer locally driven solutions for more effective, high impact and long-lasting change.
“Membership to the committee is by invitation, but there is no limit to how many people can be involved in its activities,” said Tukula, who has worked for the Nation Publication, in the diplomatic mission with the British Embassy before rejoining The Nation and later the Times Group.
In announcing the news of MFC Malawi’s membership, WAN-IFRA says this is remarkable as it has happened on a day that media around the world celebrate the advances and take stock of the challenges remaining in the spirit of solidarity that unites the profession.
WAN-IFRA says the establishment of MFC Malawi brings to nine the number of such Committees in Africa and 20 in the world with Malawi joining the MFC family together with other new committees in Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Tanzania.
“MFC Malawi comes on the scene on the 30th Anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration which set the benchmark for ensuring press freedom around the world.
“It implies an important role for governments, within the firm parameters of freedom, pluralism and independence.
“States are implored to be proactive in protecting journalists and advancing opportunities for citizens to exercise freedom of expression and ensuring legal and practical support to sectors such as public service and community media.”
WAN-IFRA takes cognizance that these are the values that MFC Malawi seeks to uphold “by playing an active role to complement the wonderful work that is already being done by other media bodies in the country”.
“And, where necessary, championing causes that are aimed at countering challenges to media freedom in Malawi using its global network.”
This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme, ‘Information as a Public Good’, recognises the changing communications system that is impacting on the people’s health, human rights, democracy and sustainable development.
“We have all been impacted by the raging CoVID-19 pandemic and the media has not been spared of its effects. Apart from taking members of the media fraternity, the pandemic has helped to bring to the fore the power of information.
“The relentless pursuit of information on how funds meant for the fight against CoVID-19 were used has led to the painful reminder of how deep-rooted the culture of merciless plunder of public resources is in the country.
“The recent decisive action by government is, therefore, a good starting point to change the course of the country’s governance history and the media has to continue to play a pivotal role in nurturing the new order that most patriotic Malawians have been craving for.
“Before us is an opportunity that must not be missed,” said the statement from WAN-IFRA, whose Media Freedom Committees are country-wide networks of media professionals and they are local in approach, yet global in scale.
Each country Committee brings local media professionals together to find common solutions to the most important media freedom challenges.
Organised on a voluntary basis, each Committee sets its agenda and priorities that are media-led and offer locally driven solutions for more effective, high impact and long-lasting change.
According to Wikipedia, WAN-IFRA is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation made up of 76 national newspaper associations, 12 news agencies, 10 regional press organisations, and many individual newspaper executives in 100 countries.
The association was founded in 1948, and, as of 2011, represented more than 18,000 publications globally.
In July 2009, WAN merged with IFRA, the research and service organisation for the news publishing industry, to become WAN-IFRA.
WAN’s objectives are to defend and to promote freedom of the press, to support the development of newspaper publishing and to foster global co-operation.
It has provided consultation for UNESCO, the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
WAN-IFRA carries out its work from headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany and in Paris with subsidiaries in Singapore, India and Mexico.
The World Editors Forum (WEF) is the organisation for editors within WAN-IFRA.
WAN-IFRA administers the annual Golden Pen of Freedom Award to recognize a journalist or media organisation that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of freedom of the press.