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Radio station resumes broadcasting following suspension of its licence

(MISA/IFEX) - Joy Radio Station, which had its broadcasting licence suspended on 17 October 2008, has resumed broadcasting after a High Court injunction preventing the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) from revoking its licence.

MACRA had ordered the station off-air over allegations of not complying with the licence agreement and provisions of the Communications Act. Ralph Kasambara, the station's lawyer told MISA-Malawi that the High Court judge felt that closing down the station could deprive Malawians of their right to information, which the radio station, as a component of the media, champions.

"The presiding judge said that the media play a vital role in informing, educating and entertaining the public. And as such, the closure of Joy Radio could have impinged on the right to information the media champions," Kasambara said.

Following the injunction, the station resumed broadcasting at 2:30pm (local time) on 19 October. The injunction will be valid for seven days while waiting for Joy Radio's case to be reviewed. The Director of Broadcasting for MACRA, James Chimera, told a local newspaper that the station had been closed because it transferred ownership and was effectively in the hands of politicians contrary to section 48(7) of the Communications Act. According to MACRA, the station is now owned by the former president and national chairman of the United Democratic Front (UDF), Bakili Muluzi, his wife Patricia Shanil Muluzi and his son, Atupele Muluzi, and a Tanzanian investor.

Another alleged reason for the closure was the station's non-compliance with the broadcasting licence whereby it [Joy Radio Station] refused to talk to MACRA and preferred to talk through its lawyers. MACRA did not explain the difference between talking through the lawyers and *talking face-to-face with the directors of Joy Radio Station.

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