Malawi’s Minister of Information, Patricia Kaliati, has criticised the country's broadcasting regulator for allowing four
radio stations to operate illegally after the expiry of their licenses, writes Samuel Makaka.

She was speaking at a press conference a few days after she toured the Malawi Communications and Regulatory Authority (Macra). She blamed the regulatory body for allowing stations to operate with expired licenses.

The stations are privately owned Capital FM and Power 101, African Bible College, a Christian station, and one community radio, Dzimwe.

“Some of these radio stations are operating while their licenses expired and yet others are operating without following rules stipulated in their licenses but Macra is just looking on,” the minister said.

The managing editor and owner of Capital FM, Aldin Osman, said after their license expired they immediately wrote to Macra to ask for their licence to be renewed, but this was not done in time.

The relations between the regulatory body and some radio stations have been deteriorating since December last year when Macra directed all radio stations in the country to surrender their licenses for review.

Joy Radio Limited, owned by former president, Bakili Muluzi, obtained an injunction restraining the Macra board from taking any action against it because the board was operating illegally. Joy claimed procedures were flouted in the appointment of board members.

The matter is still in court.

In a related development, Macra has ordered all radio stations to ask its permission before any live outside broadcast.

The regulator said: “We want to monitor the live broadcasts as they have become more controversial recently.” It did not elaborate.

Recent live broadcasts of political rallies of former president, Bakili Muluzi on his Joy Radio Station have stirred debate because they included strong statements by opposition leaders against the current government of Bingu wa Mutharika.

Macra has also given one month’s notice to all broadcasters to pay outstanding debts.

Radio stations with the biggest debts to Macra are Power 101 and Capital FM, who owe over MK2 million each (around $15 000).