Malawi’s Parliament on Wednesday repealed the controversial Section 46 of the Penal Code removing the powers of the Minister of Information to ban or prohibit any publication deemed undesirable.
Section 46 is one of the repressive laws that caused Malawi’s diplomatic isolation and an aid freeze from the country’s key Western donors.
Despite initial resistance from the former ruling party — DPP — who argued that the Bill tabled did not fulfil the 28 days notice requirement, legislators from both sides of the House repealed it describing it as a threat to free speech and media freedom.
Even former Minister of Information Symon Vuwa Kaunda also supported the repeal despite being one of the principle proponents of the law just some few months ago
Leader of the House Henry Phoya, a lawyer and former minister of Justice, said Section 46 had been perceived as unreasonable limitation to free publication, freedom of speech and freedom of the media.
“This piece of legislature has been a subject of protracted controversy. This is one Bill that gave this country a wrong image without giving government any tangible benefits,” said Phoya.
And within an hour or so, the Bill was passed. This is the third repeal that the parliament, now controlled by the new administration of Joyce Banda, has managed to throw out responding to demands by right groups in the country and influential western donors.
Repealing repressive laws and devaluing the kwacha were among the key demands from donors and the International Monetary Fund. Former President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died last month, refused to give in on those demands.