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The Meaning Of Freedom Of Expression

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 3234 words Published: 4th May 2017

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Nations across the world have different constitutions and laws that govern the countries, apparently some may similar depending on the country, and some are also different. However, the Freedom of Speech and Expression is common in most of them, especially in countries that are not under dictatorship ruling. The freedom of speech has to do with freeing people to express their thoughts however they want without any type of interference. This is a major issue across the world, with no exception of Malawi. Furthermore, the issue of expression has to do with the media because these are the watchdogs of the society and they link the people with the government. The press has to do the researching for the nation, it has to be transparent and accountable in its news reporting, and so the media and press do meet up with lots of problems.

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The freedom of speech is defined as the freedom to speak without censorship and limitation or both. It goes on to give political rights that enable one to share ideas. Basically, the Freedom of Expression comprises of things that enable one to impart, receive and seek information without looking at the strategy used. It is said to help in democracy to work and also public participation in decision making because citizens cannot freely express their obligations if they do not have the freedom empowered to them. An article in the universal declaration read that, the free communication of ideas and opinion should be considered as man’s greatest right.(David 2012)

In as much as the people are given absolute rights to speak and publish whatever they like, it is also said that the law is likely to take its stand whenever any of the rights is abused. This means that the freedom of expression is something that is very important and has to be thought of on a huge note. Even the article 5 of the universal declaration does endorse this and adds on to say boundaries are not necessary as far as the freedom of expression is concerned. (David 2012)

Background of the Freedom of Expression

The freedom of speech dates back in the 5th and 6th BC in the Roman Republic whereby the main rights were freedom of religion and freedom of speech, also, it was talked of by Rashidun and Al-Hashimi, Islam’s, in their letter to one of the religious opponents. As years passed, various people fought for it in so many ways until the first state proclaiming freedom of speech was issued on December 4, 1770 in Denmark- Norway. People like John Stuart Mill pointed out that without freedom there can hardly be achievement in in things like politics and other things related, which according to him needed free expression. However, the Freedom Forum Organization said that it is important to recognize the limits of the freedom of speech as it may conflict with other things. (David 2012)

The Malawi government has also adopted the concept of freedom of speech ever since it got its independence from Britain and had the democratic government. Democracy deals a lot with the voice of the people; apparently that is why it goes hand in hand with the freedom of speech and expression. The Malawi Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression and views it as a basic right. It strives for the public to enjoy their right to be informed through unrestricted access to information.

Aims and Objectives

To find out whether there has been an advancement of the freedom of expression or whether it has/is deteriorating.

Since its establishment, things have been happening that it has not been easy to tell whether or not this freedom is really working out there or maybe it is long gone.

To examine the flow of the rights in the government and reflect how the citizens are being handled with reference to the freedom of expression.

How exactly is the government implementing its policies on the people, is it being over authoritative or perhaps it is imposing issues on the people without considering their rights, or perhaps it is doing just fine.

To evaluate the extent of the freedom the press has here in Malawi

How far does the Malawian government take its freedom of expression, to what extent does it authorize it.

To find out the media has they truly are doing their jobs freely without hindrances

Are the media houses truly free to report anything that they are obligated to report to the nation of Malawi? Or perhaps they have setbacks?

To estimate how the freedom of speech is being used by the media and press on the people.

To see through how the freedom of expression and speech have been flowing over the years.

To understand what exactly it means to have that kind of freedom, and also learn its limitations.

Problem Statement

The media is a watchdog for the society, and its job is to keep the nation informed, entertained and educated, it has to do anything in its power to be there for the society and look out for it. However, in Malawi, the freedom of expression, or press freedom is said to have been adopted many years ago, apparently as early as when independence from the British government was granted. Now, the problem is that there seems to be a hindrance on this freedom of expression and the way the media is doing its job. Its either it is not being granted to them in full or there are lots of misconceptions about it. The media is suffering and there is no accuracy in its job, this only means that the nation is not getting accurate information, and is therefore not being treated fairly.


Upon conducting a research on the evaluation of the freedom of speech and expression, the possible outcomes are anticipated.

The government sometimes tends to take charge of the media practitioners, thereby limiting their freedom of speech and expression.

When the people, media and press properly exercise their freedom of expression, they tend to come out with positive results because that is a job well done for them to serve the nation in a proper manner without limitations.

Some media practitioners misuse their rights and cross their limits all in the name of having freedom of expression, as a result other people’s rights are violated.


So much has been said or research on the topic of freedom of expression and the media, organizations, and even individuals have quite a bit to say about it, others give some emphasis on it as in its importance in the media and others even give an overview of how it is flowing in the country and also how or what the media thinks about it.

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Freedom of speech has to do with people being able to give their views on things of their interest, and the freedom of the press gives the rights to the print media in order for them to freely express what they truly believe. However, having the freedom of speech does not mean having the right to hurt or discomfort other people. The freedom that is involved here has to do with how much creativity one can bring for the aim of improving the societies that we live in. this freedom is there to empower people to analyse their government and achieve what is best for both of them, in other words it has to do with criticizing the leadership both positively and negatively and end up having what is best for the nation. To live without freedom is binding but with freedom comes responsibility in reporting. (Orwell 2009)

Freedom of expression is very important if the people are to participate in decision making issues, especially for countries that are said to be democratic like Malawi itself. People can not be able to participate freely in what is going on around them if they do not have the freedom, for instance things like choosing of leaders to guide them. Therefore, this issue is not only necessary for personal gain but also it helps in maintain the democratic spirit that the country has. This freedom clearly gives the society to voice out their thoughts on issues freely without any disturbances. Furthermore, this is something that needs full support because of its position in democracy and public participation in political issues and also the media. On a journalistic point of view, the freedom to give out knowledge can come under different attacks. Pressure on the journalists poses a very big threat.

An article released by MISA said that Freedom of expression is a basic right, which is expressly guaranteed in the Malawi Constitution. Therefore, this programme seeks to campaign for the public to enjoy their right to be informed through unrestricted access to information. This one continued to say that MISA is campaigning for the Access to Information (ATI) bill. Section 37 of the Malawi Constitution provides for access to information. The framers of the Constitution however made this right to access information subject to an act of parliament but did not set a timeframe for the enactment of the law on access to information. On the other hand, some information clearly states that 13 years since the adoption of the Constitution, there is still no enabling act for access to information. Apparently, according to Malawi Institute of Journalism, a minister once said that the case of the July 20 demonstrations that were held in the country, he observed that some jouranalists who were covering the demonstrations were beaten up by the police and some radio stations put off air by the Malawi communications Regulatory Authority MACRA (Malawi Institute of Journalism 2012)

Still on the concept of the freedom of expression being violated, the government has been named as the biggest violator of the freedom of expression in Malawi followed by the general public, and this is according to the Media council of Malawi (MCM). Mr Anderson Fumulani of the MCM said that a survey revealed government as a major violator of press freedom. (Ganthu 2002). Capitol Radio managing director Al Osman warned that with repressive media laws been introduced, freedom of expression is under threat. He continued to say that the media just provide a platform and that freedom of expression is not exclusive to the media. On the contrary, it was argued that Malawi is enjoying the freedom of expression now than before, according to Edson Mwamvani, southern regional information officer, the freedom of expression has improved in the last ten years, however, the freedom of expression has to look at the responsibilities as well (Gondwe, 2011)

In addition to the violation, The Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) noted with disappointment that there is lack of respect for media freedom and in the country. The media in Malawi is continuously being violated not only by the government, but also some individuals of the public. Apparently, the latest threats came from the late State President Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, who warned that he was going to stop the work of some media houses and also arrest some individual journalists that continued to report negatively about his administration. He further pointed out that journalists in the country are being careless and false in their work of reporting. Furthermore, MISA Malawi also said it was aware of threats on some journalists as well as media houses from people who claim to be misrepresented in some stories published by journalists. MISA said that such things do interrupt work of the media as watchdogs of the country because it gives them fear and they don’t work to the best of their abilities. It also continued to say it feels that it is very easy in such circumstances to think that the government is actually thinking of taking little steps to ending the freedom of expression in the country. The media in the country really is trying so hard to do its job right , however, it is meeting many problems regarding its freedom of expression. MISA said it emphasizes that it does not condone irresponsible reporting, it said it is urging journalists to be truthful in every single thing they tackle. Irresponsible reporting should not even be heard of here in Malawi and around the world.

The media should therefore be allowed to represent the people and take care of them accordingly. The organisation said it expects the government authorities and other people who happen to have problems against journalists and media people to give their issues to the correct bodies that are put in place for this. Freedom of expression and the right to report is given in the constitution of the country and they are both said to be protected by the head of state. The president must not be the first person to rob the media of its freedom, its simply not acceptable. The organisation was actually referring to the recent government that it should promote media freedom in Malawi. Not only that but also appealing to the media practitioners to support the people and keep alert. MISA finished by encouraging the government to continue to support media outlets. (Augustine 2010)

The issue of rights being violated in Malawi, with no exception of the freedom of speech was addressed by the United Nations whereby showed that it is only a matter of time before the United Nations turns on the sanction button against the current government led by Mrs. Joyce Banda. According to the UN this is mainly following Malawi Government failure to uphold Human Rights and other laws of natural justice as enriched in the UN’s Convention on Human Rights. Section 19 of the Convention gives everyone the ability to express opinions without any hindrances. About the media, the convention adds that everyone has the right to perform and work effectively with no boundaries when it comes to freedom. In 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee adopted what is known as the General Comment No 34, which is guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This comment strengthens the protection of the international law on freedom of expression including the Courts of Law in its member states of which Malawi is inclusive. According to Article 19, a well-known international organisation which is committed to defend the right to freedom of expression and fights against repression of the media, both the UN convention and its general comment define freedom of opinion and freedom of expression as indispensable conditions for the full development of a person. The organisation adds that freedom of opinion and expression are essential for any democratic society considering that it provides the basics of what democracy is all about.

The freedom of expression provides for the exchange and development of opinions. With Malawi being a ‘democratic country’ as it is called, others may question as to whether it really is a democratic state or an authoritarian which demands people to bow to the opinion of the government. the current government in Malawi has been criticised by various organisations such as Council of NGOs in Malawi for violating some sections of the constitution with no exception to the freedom of expression. According to Article 19, freedom of expression is a necessary condition for the realisation of the principles of transparency and accountability that are, in turn essential for the promotion and protection of human rights. In countries where democracy is embraced, a free uncensored and unhindered press or other media is considered as essential to ensure freedom of opinion and expression and the enjoyment of other covenant rights. Ironically, the Malawi constitution particularly Section 35 and 36, affirms that every person shall have the right to express oneself, not onlyt in Malawi, but also in foreign countries (Nkhoma 2012)

On the same issue, freedom of expression has been said to be something that is put in place in the Malawi Constitution, but it seems like lately it is sliding back to the time when it was not available. It is unfortunate that it does not matter which party is ruling or whatsoever, but the fact of the matter remains that the freedom of expression is currently not on a very good positions. Apparently after many press conferences, the late president Dr. Wa Mutharika after arguing with the media ended up shaking hands with journalists and continuosly said aluta continua, meaning let the struggle come to an end, because Malawi is a democratic country (Munthali 2010)

On the area of print media, the importance of freedom of speech is important in the newspaper or print industry is that the print media does a big job of keeping the people informed. The people need to know what their leaders are doing and this is almost impossible to happen effectively is the publishers are controlled by the government. Some information has been given regarding the freedom of speech with respect to the internet in Malawi, and this is including media areas like television, radio or written press. These things are being limited by certain principles of public order, and this is what has been proposed against in the bill (Muwamba 2012)

Freedom of press released an article where it talked of how the freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed in Malawi even though they are restricted in practice. On April 13, 2007, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) banned all private media outlets from broadcasting political rallies live without prior permission from the MACRA. This move intended to avoid messages that would be against the government. The government does not exercise over censorship, but freedom of expression in Malawi is threatened in many ways. One journalist was reportedly attacked in 2007. Dickson Kashoti, a reporter for the private Daily Times was physically attacked by Joseph Njobvuyalema, a member of parliamrnt over an article that had been critical of him. (freedom house 2008)

The Freedom of information Act in 1966 gives the right to know, and also views the press as a very crucial an part of the freedom of expression, and a bridge between people and social institutions. So the press is the mediator of relationships with institutions of society family, religion, economy and many more. In addition to that, article 19 of the universal declaration of human rights adopted in 1948 continues to give the public its freedom to feely express itself and also get first hand information.

However, some situations and writings have showed that the freedom of expression is not entirely valid in Malawi since it was written by George Ombuluka that the United States official also commented on the Malawian freedom of expression when he extended his speech to the late president Dr. Bingu Wa Mutharika to say that he should respect his citizens’ right to freedom of expression. Anthony Livuza said that the government of Malawi promised to encourage the freedom of the media and this was after it met with international delegations on the issue of press freedom, the government resolved to being open and also fully supporting the media in its work . According Emmanuel, Freedom of expression in Malawi regarding television, radio, or print is set to be limited by certain principles of public order; this is said by the new bill. (Muwamba 2011)


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