Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Rule of law in closure of licence fee evading Malawi media houses



When a goat attacks a dog., it is not news but when a dog does the same, it is news. This proverb is truer in our case in Malawi where the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has been on a crusade to revoke licences for a number of radio stations which have not been paying their annual licencing fee as spelt in the legislation which guides the regulatory body.

Some sectors of the society are of the view that MACRA is hell-bent on taking Malawians back to the one-party state regime where there was simply one state-controlled media house, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation. They argue that the regulatory body is being used by the Tonse Alliance for its political expediency.

However, what is coming out clear from the Director General of the body, Daud Suleman, is that the media houses whose licences have been revoked because they were not compliant with the terms of their licences, especially by not honouring the annual payments of the same which, as the Director, demonstrated, were accruing in Millions of Malawi Kwacha.

Some quarters of the society thought that what the Director General was doing was selective justice alleging that the state-controlled MBC was not also complying such that Adrian & Company’s legal firm had to write a demand letter to ask the regulatory body to produce evidence that MBC is clean.

In a letter dated 30th August 2022, the MACRA Director General responded to the demand letter where he attached receipts showing MBC’s compliance with the terms of the licences as far as annual payment of the licensing fees is concerned.

What all well-meaning Malawians can see from this whole episode is the rule of law in play. For instance, Rainbow TV, suppressed facts to obtain an injunction against its closure but when the matter went to court, it was really shown that Rainbow TV, had suppressed facts and the court sided with MACRA to proceed to revoke the license.

This is what the rule of law looks like.  It applies without fear or favour.  It’s my contention that the remaining media houses must continue to take the matter of following the law and paying their annual fees seriously for that is their obligation and if they fail, they should not come crying foul that MACRA is being used and abused by the politicians to close them when they are supposed to do their part. Do they not say that those who come to equity must come with clean hands?



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