To celebrate and popularize freedom of the press UNESCO supports the celebration of World Freedom Day which falls on 3 May each year. In 2017 UNESCO contributed financial assistance towards the holding of a panel discussion. The panel discussion was held under the topic ‘Free expression and access to information in Malawi: Relevance and role in promoting peace and more inclusive societies.’ The topic aimed at casting the spotlight on the relevance of free expression and access to information in fostering peace and inclusive societies. This topic was relevant considering the fact that government had passed into law, the Access to Information Bill (2017) two days prior to the celebrations.
Media Instituted of Southern Africa Malawi chapter (MISA Malawi) considered it key to organise a debate on this topic to give people an opportunity to discuss the relevance of access to information and freedom of expression in promoting peace and more inclusive societies. Among others, the debate revolved around the following issues:
- The importance of freedom of expression in fostering peace;
- The role played by access to information in promoting peace and more inclusive societies;
- Inclusive strategies that can be developed to ensure that the right to seek and receive information is strengthened and used by the media as well as all groups in society?
- How the general public can be included in a significant manner in the efforts to achieve the 2030 Development Agenda; and
- How to ensure the protection of fundamental freedoms when the rule of law is not respected.
Three panelists took part in the debate namely, Thom Khanje, chairperson of MISA Malawi; Brian Ligomeka, independent think tank and renowned media freedom and freedom of expression activist; and Ellard Manjawira, Head of Journalism and Media Studies Department at the Polytechnic, University of Malawi.
Making remarks before the start of the panel discussion, the Acting Executive Secretary of the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO, Mr. Emmanuel Kondowe said the theme of celebration was focused on why it is vital to strengthen free and quality journalism to enable the media to effectively contribute to the achievement of SDG 16 especially target 16.10 which seeks to ensure public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms.