The government of Malawi has announced that it will be introducing a new media gagging law.

Presented to the House as the Electronic Transactions Bill, the DPP led government is seeking to crack down on content of the press, beginning with online media and social media forums such as Facebook, Instragram and Twitter.

The previous DPP government of Bingu wa Mutharika introduced draconian laws – section 46 of the penal code that empowered ministers to close down any media houses that are publishing information deemed to be “against public interest”.

Following an outcry from campaigners that included a coalition of civil society, media houses, and the international community, Bingu wa Mutharika’s successor Joyce Banda repealed the oppressive law, and DPP in opposition apologised for such “bad laws”.

The Bill states that restrictions will be imposed upon media houses that publishes information deemed against the interests of “public order and national security”.we have archaic laws in this country which the government can use to limit freedom of people on the internet.”

According to Section 35 of the Bill.also requires journalists to publish their contact details or even physical addresses  something which is feared could put journalists and their families in physical danger when they publish politically sensitive articles.

The Bill seeks to tighten control of bloggers, online media, especially news websites, by making online news editors of such content liable for any publications which might threaten public order and national security.c information.

There are also fears that in a bid to “protect public order and security” as stated in Section 28 (1) (e), government could shut down online social media platforms such as Facebook, Instragram and Twitter using such legislation.

The Bill seeks to regulate the information and communications technology (ICT) sector by providing aspects governing the formation of electronic agreements, regulating consumer protection in electronic commerce operations such as electronic transaction of the financial and banking sectors, provision of data protection and privacy and management of domain names among others.

Via Nyasa Times