African Media Barometer Malawi

The media environment in Malawi over the past two years can best be described as a twin tale. This because the country has experienced two presidents with very different ideas of how the country should be run.

Until his death in April 2012, president Bingu wa Mutharika had presided over a country with an ailing economy and declining democratic culture whose consequence was the attempt to limit freedom of expression and restrict media freedom.

This decline became pronounced in July 2011 when Malawians took to the streets to protest but with such devastating consequence in the death of at least twenty protestors who were shot dead by police. For the media, threats of government advertising withdrawal, physical attack and surveillance had to be endured, if not survived.

Beyond April 2012, Malawi has been engulfed by a sense of hope but also cynicism. Hope because soon after assuming office, the government of president Joyce Banda immediately instituted key reforms which resulted in partial restoration of donor confidence and critical aid. The media highlight was, of course, the repeal of the draconian Section 46 of the Penal Code which previously empowered a Minister of Information to ban any publication as s/he saw fit.

The cynicism – and it is growing – comes from the fact that although there have been all these dramatic changes in Malawi, for most citizens, the earth has not exactly moved underneath.

This report captures both that hope and perilous uncertainty as reflected within the media-space. However, if there is anything that stands out here, it is the resilience of Malawian media and its impressive capability to always rise above stubborn social, economic and political challenges – most of which are self-inflicted – and still play its watchdog role.


African media barometer

African media barometer

the first home grown analysis of the media landscape in Africa : Malawi 2012
Windhoek, 2012

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African Media Barometer

African Media Barometer

Our flagship African Media Barometer provides a home grown analysis of the health of the media landscape across 31 countries in Africa. More



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