The offices of the Times Group, a leading media organization in Malawi, were unsealed by the Malawi Revenue Authority following international condemnation and intervention by the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, journalists and media executives.
The editor-in-chief of the Times Group, George Kasakula, said in an email to IPI that the group was grateful for the international support it received against the sealing of its office. He thanked IPI for speaking with Malawi’s minister of communications, Nicholas Harry Dausi, and urging him to take prompt action to reopen the group’s offices.
The Times Group office was sealed last Friday by the Malawi Revenue Authority on the pretext of non-payment of tax. Revenue Authority officials ignored a stay order issued by the country’s High Court against the sealing of the office.
“This is a major victory for press freedom in Africa”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “The government reacted to international pressure and advocacy by IPI. Free media is an essential component of a democracy and any assault on press freedom needs to be condemned.
IPI had vehemently condemned the sealing of the Times Group’s offices, describing it as an attack on press freedom. Notably, the Times Group was not allowed to exhaust all options available under national law to challenge the move. IPI spoke with the minister of communications and urged him to take immediate action to allow the office to be reopened.
Minister Dausi had assured IPI that he would resolve the matter and the newspaper staff would be able to operate from its premises on Tuesday, June 5. On the insistence of IPI, he arranged a meeting between the Times Group management and the Malawi Revenue Authority, after which the office was reopened the same day.