Media professionals commemorate World Press Freedom Day
Media professionals in Malawi gathered in Lilongwe on May 1 to celebrate World Press Freedom Day 2009.
The commemorations, which were sponsored by UNESCO and organised by Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter, started off with a freedom march from Lilongwe Old Town Post Office to the Silver Conference Hall where a public debate was held.
The debate was held under the topic: “The Role of the Media in Fostering Dialogue, Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation” This topic was drawn from the global theme set up by UNESCO for this year’s World Press Freedom Day commemorations. Panellists and other contributors at the debate noted that the media in Malawi had done well in supporting dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation by giving a voice to various players in the society including political parties ahead of the elections. However, observations were made that the media needed to improve as there were still pockets of biases and use of inappropriate language which compromised national dialogue and reconciliation.
The debate was officiated by Francis Mkandawire of the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO, Deborah Nyangulu-Chipofya of MISA Malawi and the Chinese Ambassador to Malawi, His Excellency Lin Songtian.
After the debate, commemorations proceeded with a social football match at Civo Stadium followed by a donation of some fortified food supplements to Kamuzu Central Hospital by the Gift of the Givers Foundation. The commemorations were crowned by the Awards Gala later on the evening held at the Crossroads Hotel where journalists who had performed well in their profession were rewarded.
Malawi has been commemorating the World Press Freedom Day for the past seven years, and this was the first time the commemorations were held in Lilongwe. May 3 was set aside by the United Nations to raise awareness on the importance of press freedom and freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 0f the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Malawi provides for this right in section 35 of its Constitution. This year’s celebrations were held on Friday 1 May, as may 3 was on a Sunday.