21 November 2008

Malawi: Radio Station Shut Down for a Second Time

press release

The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has shut down Joy Radio for the second time after the High Court in Blantyre lifted an injunction the radio station obtained on 17 October 2008. The injunction restrained MACRA from closing the station on accusations of breaching licence conditions, failing to comply with the provisions of the Communications Act and for effectively transferring its ownership into the hands of politicians.

MACRA challenged the injunction obtained by Joy Radio and High Court Judge Joseph Manyungwa ruled in favour of the regulatory body on 19 November. The ruling allows MACRA to implement its earlier decision to close down the station.

Following the ruling, MACRA wrote to Joy Radio on 20 November ordering the station to stop its broadcasting services.

"Kindly be advised that Justice Manyungwa yesterday discharged the interlocutory order of injunction restraining MACRA from revoking your licence. This effectively means that the decision by MACRA to revoke your licence still stands (. . . ) You are therefore advised to cease and desist from carrying out any broadcasting services with immediate effect," reads a letter signed by MACRA director general, Dr Alexxon Chiwaya.

The head of news at Joy Radio, Lloyd Zawanda, said they stopped all broadcasting at 10:00 a.m. (local time) on 20 November and have referred the issue to their lawyers for advice. He said there was a good chance the station would appeal the ruling.

MACRA Public Relations Manager Zadziko Mankhambo confirmed the closure of Joy Radio but could not speak on the procedures the station would need to follow to come back on air if the appeal option is not adopted.

BACKGROUND:

- 1 April 2002, Joy radio is granted licence by MACRA to conduct broadcasting services.

- 25 March 2007, Joy radio is attacked by five unidentified persons for broadcasting live a meeting addressed by former President Bakili Muluzi, ignoring another meeting addressed by President Bingu wa Mutharika.

- 13 July 2007, the High Court of Malawi nullified the composition of the MACRA board after a successful application by Joy Radio stating that the board was illegal and flouted provisions of the Communications Act in its composition. President Bingu wa Mutharika suspended an earlier MACRA board on 4 April 2005 before dissolving it on 8 April the same year. The president accused the board of "stinking" and replaced it with a new board on 2 March 2006 whose chairperson was a former executive member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

- 29 October 2007, MACRA uproots transmission equipment of what would have been a second television station, Joy Television, on the grounds that the broadcaster did not have the appropriate licence that allowed ownership of both a radio and television station.

- 17 October 2008, Joy Radio stops its broadcasting at 6:00 p.m. after MACRA revokes its licence on accusations that the station had violated provisions of the Communications Act and its broadcasting licence by transferring its ownership to politicians.

- 19 October 2008, Joy Radio resumes broadcasting at 2:30 p.m. after obtaining an injunction restraining MACRA from revoking its licence.

Updates the Joy Radio Station case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/97783

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