BNL are publishers of the Malawi News, Daily Times, Weekend Times and Sunday Times newspaper titles.
According to the order by the company’s managing director Leonard Chikadya, all female employees are no longer allowed to wear miniskirts or tight trousers while on duty.
Chikadya told the female employees to “dress properly” like Mama Cecilia Kadzamira, the former official hostess to the country’s first president, the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
He said skirts must be of “reasonable” length and also told male workers to ensure they are dressed appropriately like Kamuzu Banda.
Banda, who owned the media giant used to dress in British attire, thus three-piece suit and a Wilson hat.
The directive has angered female workers at the company who say it violates the country’s constitution which allows freedom of dress to women and men.
The employees, especially journalists, in random interviews described the directive as draconian and making the environment not conducive to work.
“Mr Chikadya has run out of ideas. He takes us for granted. This is too much. He runs this company as a personal farm. We are tired of his style of administration. I wonder why the board approves of this stupid directive,” said one employee.
Journalists and other commentators have reacted angrily to the directive on social media and media forums.
Blogger and news analyst Jimmy Kainja wrote on his Facebook Timeline: “People, I hear female journalist BNL Times media group have been barred from wearing trousers? Why are the bosses bothering themselves with misogynies instead of product quality?”
A former employee and editor at the newspaper company, Idriss Ali Nasser wrote on journalists’ Internet discussion forum, Misa-Malawi: “BNL ban female employees from wearing trousers/miniskirts? For those who might be confused by this: NO, the order did NOT come from Hastings Kamuzu Banda!”
A journalist now working with UNICEF, Kusali Kubwalo wrote: “Interesting. A pair of slacks actually offers more cover than a skirt. Slacks are more conducive to a field environment than a skirt. We have taken one step forward and three backwards.”
Another journalist Yvonne Sundu of rival Nation Publication Limited wrote: “The way I love miniskirts and trousers. I can definitely need a wardrobe make over!”
The directive is expected to receive opposition and criticism from human rights activists.
Chikadya refused to be interviewed.