17.12.2008

Joy Radio allowed to resume broadcasting

Joy Radio station resumed broadcasting on 16 December 2008, 30 days after the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) revoked its broadcasting license for non-compliance with the Communications Act and its licence agreement.

The resumption of broadcasting came after the Supreme Court of Appeal reinstated an injunction obtained on 17 October by Joy Radio which restrained the MACRA from revoking the radio station's broadcasting licence. The MACRA challenged the injunction and it was struck down by a High Court judge on 19 November. When delivering the verdict in his chamber, Justice Singini said he had reinstated the injunction pending a judicial review hearing on the matter. "I must therefore consider the judicial review matter as being part of the totality of the circumstances of the case before me," the judge said.

In the judicial review, Joy Radio was asking the court to quash the decision by MACRA to have its licence revoked. Justice Singini observed that the discharge of the injunction has the same effect as the decision of MACRA terminating the radio licence. "In (this) case, the discharge of the injunction has the same effect as the decision of the respondent terminating the applicant's licence in that it has, in the result, stopped the applicant from operating under the licence. That decision of the respondent is the very subject of the impending judicial review," the judge said. He however cautioned Joy Radio, saying reinstatement of the injunction was not a licence for wrongdoing in the period pending determination of the judicial review proceedings. "The licensee under the Act, is under the legal, indeed statutory, obligation at all times to comply with the requirements of (the) act," Justice Singini said. He also added that as a matter of public interest, the Communications Act represents an important public policy framework, and as such observed that it was important for the licensed service providers to comply with requirements of the law under the Act.

BACKGROUND: - 1 April 2002: Joy Radio is granted licence by the MACRA to conduct broadcasting services.
- 25 March 2007: Joy Radio is attacked by five unidentified thugs for broadcasting live a meeting addressed by former President Bakili Muluzi, ignoring another meeting being addressed by President Mutharika.
- 13 July 2007: The High Court of Malawi nullifies composition of the MACRA board after a successful application by Joy Radio to the effect that the board was illegal and flouted provisions of the Communications Act in its composition. President Bingu wa Mutharika suspended an earlier MACRA board on 4 April 2005 before dissolving it on 8 April of the same year. The President accused the board of "stinking" and replaced it with a new board on 2 March 2006 whose chairperson was a former executive member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
- 29 October 2007: The MACRA uproots transmission equipment of what would have been a second station, Joy Television, on the grounds that the broadcaster did not have the appropriate licence that allowed ownership of both a radio and television station.
- 9 July 2008: The State House Press Office warns Joy Radio against what it terms "embarking on a disinformation crusade". The former president, Bakili Muluzi, and the radio's station manager, Peter Chisale, are accused of being the architects but they deny this allegation.
- 10 July 2008: Immigration officials storm Joy Radio's premises searching for foreigners allegedly employed there. The officials also visit station manager Peter Chisale's home village to ascertain his citizenship after the State House Press Office alleged he was a Zambian and threatened to deport him.
- 17 October 2008: Joy Radio stops its broadcasting at 6:00 p.m. (local time) after the MACRA revokes its licence on accusations that the station had violated provisions of the Communications Act and its broadcasting licence by transferring its ownership to politicians.
- 19 October 2008: Joy Radio resumes broadcasting at 2:30 p.m. after obtaining an injunction restraining the MACRA from revoking its licence.
- 20 November 2008: Joy Radio stops broadcasting following the lifting of the court injunction it obtained restraining the MACRA from revoking its broadcasting licence.
- 27 November 2008: Joy Radio appeals to the Supreme Court over the lifting of the injunction restraining the MACRA from revoking its license. (Media Institute of Southern Africa)

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