LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Speaker of the Malawi National Assembly, Richard Msowoya this week, emphasized the need for the public to embrace freedom of expression with caution.
Msowoya said this when he presided over the 2017 Young People for Democracy Awards, organized by Free Expression Institute (FEI), in the capital Lilongwe.
The Speaker praised FEI for its commitment to issues of freedom of expression, but said the right to free speech was not without its limits.
“I encourage you to continue raising people’s awareness on what the right to freedom of expression is,” he said before adding: “It would help our country if people fully understood what free speech is, compared to what constitutes slander or defamation are,” said Msowoya.
“Our people must be made to understand the potential of social media, which can be used for constructive purposes or abused to cause harm to individuals or organizations,” he said.
In his remarks, FEI board member,
, applauded Malawi Parliament for passing the Access to Information Act.
Chisusu said it is important that there must be a conducive environment where people are able to express themselves in whatever way they choose, including being able to stage demonstrations.
He however, observed that there was still misunderstandings or deliberate misrepresentation of the right to demonstrate.
Chisusu added that FEI’s commitment is to ensure that Malawi learns from events of July 20, 2011, “and vow to never again allow blood to be shed, property to be destroyed or people to suffer casualties, when they are meant to be enjoying their right to freedom of expression.”
“Often demonstrations have been associated with violence or damaging of property. Demonstrations are a lawful means of expression. All law-abiding citizens and all arms of Government, in particular law enforcement agents, must never obstruct anyone’s enjoyment of their right to demonstrate.
Every year, the Free Expression Institute organizes an essay writing competition, which culminates in the winner receiving the Young People for Democracy Award, presented on July 20 as a symbolic gesture to mark commemoration of the events of July 20, 2011 when at least 20 Malawians were killed in the aftermath of nationwide demonstrations.
This year over 600 young people in Malawi, participated in the competition, in which they wrote on the topic: “How can we sustainably preserve Malawi’s cultural heritage.”
The winner, who received a trophy from the Speaker, and a cash prize of MK200,000, was Nebbert Mtika, an Environmental Education Supervisor at the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust. Edward Katukana, Comfort Mchali, Tawonga Msowoya, and Frank Phiri, were in positions two to 5 respectively.
The rest of the top ten contestants were Praise Kaimfa, Don Sidira Munthali, Edward Lwanja, Wonderful Mwangonde, and Precious Bondo Mipando.