The Malawi High Court has declared that the decision by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to revoke Joy Radio's license was unconstitutional, according to a media release from the Media Institute of Southern Africa.
ThisÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â effectively dismisses all cases that MACRA had brought against the private radio station. According to this ruling, it means there is no case between Joy Radio and MACRA.
Passing his ruling on 16 January 2009, Justice Anacklet Chipeta said MACRA behaved most disgracefully with a lot of irregularities.
"I am in no doubt that the application, herein, should succeed. I accordingly hold that the decision-making process that led to the revocation of radio license was flawed through and through with irregularities.
"I find that MACRA behaved most disgracefully and that it not only acted ultra vires the powers that the law has vested it with, but also without fairness in the sense depicted by the principles of natural justice," said the judge in his ruling.
On the argument by MACRA that Joy Radio did not comply with orders from the regulatory body on the submissions of broadcasting material, Justice Chipeta said MACRA was being unreasonable.
"The ability on its part to find the applicant guilty of non-compliance . . . it is the one that owed the said applicant an answer before next pressing for compliance . . . both amount to unreasonableness on MACRA's part."
In the judicial review, Joy Radio applied for a declaration that MACRA's decision to revoke its license was unconstitutional, unreasonable, and not in line with Communications Act and the terms and conditions that MACRA had used to grant the license to Joy Radio.
"As a result, I grant to the applicant both the declarations it prayed for," concluded Chipeta.
– 1 April 2002: MACRA grants Joy Radio a license to conduct broadcasting services.
– 25 March 2007: Joy Radio is attacked by five unidentified thugs for broadcasting a live meeting addressed by former President Bakili Muluzi, ignoring another meeting being addressed by President Mutharika
– 13 July 2007: the High Court of Malawi nullifies the composition of the MACRA board after a successful application by Joy Radio charging that the board was illegal and its composition flouted provisions of the Communications Act. 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: MACRA uproots transmission equipment of what would have been a second television station, Joy Television, on the grounds that the broadcaster did not have the appropriate license that allowed ownership of both a radio and television station.
– 9 July 2008: State House Press Office warns Joy Radio against what it termed embarking on a disinformation crusade, airing libelous and slanderous programmes and playing derogatory lyrics against President Bingu wa Mutharika. Former president Bakili Muluzi and the radio's station manager Peter Chisale are accused of being the architects, something they have denied.
– 10 July 2008: Immigration officials storm Joy Radio's premises searching for foreigners allegedly employed there. The officials also visit station manager 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 MACRA revokes its license, accusing the station of violating provisions of the Communications Act and its broadcasting license by transferring its ownership to politicians.
– 19 October 2008: Joy Radio resumes broadcasting at 2:30 p.m. (local time) after obtaining an injunction restraining MACRA from revoking its license.
– 20 November 2008: Joy Radio stops broadcasting following after a court injunction restraining MACRA from revoking its broadcasting licence is lifted.
Press and Media
– 27 November 2008: Joy Radio appeals to the Supreme Court over the lifting of an injunction restraining MACRA from revoking its license.
– 16 December 2008: The Supreme Court of Appeal reinstates the injunction restraining MACRA from revoking Joy Radio's license. The injunction had been lifted by a lower court after the regulatory body appealed. Joy Radio resumes broadcasting the same day after a 30-day blackout.