Earlier this year, Malawi’s Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) gave several broadcasters a full-year notice to pay annual license fees to the regulator. It is now being reported that as a consequent failure to do so, outlets such as Rainbow Television, Angalimba Television, Ufulu Television, Angaliba FM, Capital Radio, Sapitwa FM, Joy Radio, Ufulu FM and Galaxy FM had their licenses revoked.
Also, it is being reported in local media that up to 30 broadcasting outlets are expected to close by the end of the year, and nearly 250 employees from three TV outlets and six radio stations have already lost their jobs.
In an attempt to convince the Malawi government’s communication regulatory body to reconsider closing these outlets, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi chapter approached the Parliamentary Committee on Media to stress their case, claiming that the economic crisis the country is experiencing, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has not spared the media sector.
The advocacy organization said that the annual fees, costing the equivalent of US$5,000, were exorbitant — 10 times more expensive than the costs of high-end hotels and admission to private hospitals.
MISA argued that “The revocation of licenses is too drastic and can be construed as a systematic violation of freedom of expression in the country.”
MISA notes that the decision to close media houses is already having adverse effects on Malawian journalists, with the potential for further disruption of the country’s young media ecosystem in the coming months.