D ominating both the political and media environment was the vigorous push for the enactment of ATI legislation by the media sector under the leadership of MISA Malawi and the Media Council of Malawi (MCM). In a coordinated and strategic effort, the print and electronic media simultaneously ran articles and news bulletins spanning over a week, to press the Peter Mutharika administration to enact the ATI Bill, as promised during the 2014 elections. In addition, the media provided platforms for Malawians to freely discuss policy preferences, suggest solutions to national or community problems, and debate a range of issues, including crime, corruption, access to justice, food security, minority rights, power outage, sanitation and climate change. The media was also instrumental in exposing social injustices and abuse of power and public resources. The year under review was a period of contestation between the state and activists – which included the media, as civil society challenged government and questioned its ability to improve the wellbeing of Malawians. With continued economic decline, civil society organizations planned demonstrations highlighting the poor performance of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in terms of social, economic and political governance. Media articles on the demonstrations also focused on apparent lack of focus and lack of direction by the government in running the affairs of the country. The articles openly quizzed 36 So This is Democracy? 2015 government to explain its apparent lack of seriousness and political will to adhere to its own austerity measures to reduce expenditure. This, attracted the ire of government, which accused the media of being political and partisan. The year under review also witnessed ordinary citizens being arrested, charged and fined for insulting the president. All these developments occurred while the Malawi Constitution provides for media freedom, freedom of expression and right to information. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION Outdated legislation used to restrict free speech Existing anti-free speech laws were systematically employed to suppress free speech. Colonial legislation that inhibits freedom of speech continues to be applied by the state to curtail media freedom and freedom of expression. By their very nature, the laws instill fear and self-censorship of the media compromising the media’s role to promote public accountability. The most common law the state applies is Section 181 of the Penal Code which states that “Every person who in any public place conducts himself in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace shall be liable to a fine of K50 and to imprisonment for three months.” Several people have been arrested, charged and convicted based on this section for apparently insulting the President. Most of the cases go unreported but MISA Malawi noted a growing intolerance of free speech in the country and called upon President Arthur Peter Mutharika to distance his administration from the arrests which were tarnishing the image of his government.