Malawi scraps contentious media law
Posted Thursday, May 31 2012 at 17:42
Malawi's parliament has repealed a controversial media law which empowered government to ban any publications deemed "contrary to public interest," the justice minister said Thursday.
The law, a section of the country's penal code, was removed from the southern African country's books after a unanimous vote late Wednesday from both the opposition and government benches of the 193-member parliament.
"Yes, the controversial section 46 was repealed yesterday after complaints from the media and rights activists," Ralph Kasambara told AFP.
Kasambara, who once served as attorney general under the late president Bingu wa Mutharika, said the piece of legislation was "unjustified censorship and limited people's right to receive and impart information."
Mutharika implemented the law in 2010 to gag his government's critics.
Local and international media watchdogs said the law was in contravention of the constitution, which provides for freedom of expression and of the press.
Lands Minister Henry Phoya was quoted by state radio telling parliament on Wednesday that "this piece of legislation gave this country a wrong image without giving government any tangible benefits."
It was one of several unpopular pieces of legislation enacted under Mutharika, whose tough rule led to Malawi being ostracised by many, including major donors like the United States, Britain and Germany.
Malawi's new president, Joyce Banda, has urged parliament to repeal unpopular laws including the ban on homosexuality and warrantless arrests.