A free media in Malawi, our right -Davis Katsonga

“The things that bother the Press about a President will ultimately bother the Country”. David Halberstam.

Recently we have read in the national media of injunctions the President, Dr Joyce Banda’s legal representatives have taken against Blantyre Newspapers Limited.

One of these injunctions, we read is to stop the Daily Times or its sister papers from publishing photos of what we are informed are of a property or properties belonging to our caring and beloved Leader.

I am only a “Para-legal” and might not claim to be too comfortable in the legal arena but, I am really lost on this matter because I do not understand what law a newspaper can break simply by publishing a photo of a house or houses belonging to any citizen of Malawi or indeed, anyone else in this Country.

What is at the heart of this injunction? Is it the article which would have accompanied the photographs or does the publication of these pictures pause a security risk to our President – if so, in what way. Or, perhaps it is something to do with the photographer perhaps, tress-passed on private land in order to take the pictures?

Almost two years ago I wrote an article (attached) against the Bingu administration’s handling of the media which, to some of us, was tantamount to muzzling and intimidation of the press; an attack on Freedom of Speech – a birth right!

And then there was an issue against the publication of photos showing Ndata “Palace”. Why was Bingu jittery about his own creation, why was Bingu uncomfortable with a construction he was supposed to be proud of? If proud he was, given other pressures which, like now, were afflicting the nation…..and like now, the nation is going through a lot of economic woes and the President not coming out in the open by fulfilling a constitutional requirement of Declaring her Assets, one might be forgiven for concluding their might be a connection between the President’s legal action(s) against the Media House. If it is, then, it does leave a bad taste in the mouth.

The Pastoral Letter which came out as a public document last weekend did highlight, among other things; what Malawi expects of our leaders and that we cannot claim to be democrats when we do not respect the very pillars which support a democracy and Malawi cannot excel at all in anything so long as our Leaders seem (appear) not to respect some of the freedoms a democracy gives a people.

On behalf of Chipani Cha Pfuko (CCP) and my own behalf, I want like to let the Malawi nation know that we are head and shoulders standing with Blantyre Newspapers Limited in its fight (for it is the also the peoples’ fight – our fight) against this move by the President, a move we see as an attempt to silence and muzzle the media.

Leaders must always be beyond the pale, beyond suspicion in the way they govern and/or conduct themselves in public life and, should never use the power they yield through their position(s) to stop the media from doing what is seen by some of us; their legitimate business.

In my 2011 commentary on a similar issue, I mentioned that “What our democracy wants to see is a situation in the country where the government and its agents do not, directly or otherwise intimidate journalists. The media has the right to criticize the government of the day or heap praise on it based on everyday issues. It is also a known fact that radio stations and the printed media have got different political slants but, to be taken seriously, they, more often than not try to show a balanced position in the way they present the news –  a vigorous and free press is therefore indispensable to a free society, speaking out plainly and stalwartly when a specific government policy (or an issue) is improper or, when corruption is located in public affairs or, and even more seriously; when our human rights are ruptured. And remember there is a Latin saying which goes, “Nemo…patriam quia magna est amat, sed quia sua” (“No one loves his country because it is big but because it is his own”).”

If only we could only remember why we are in politics all and remember; “There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed”  Albert Schweitzer.  You can follow me on my new Facebook pageBreaking Old Habits with Davies Chester Katsonga or by clicking on https://www.facebook.com/pages/Breaking-Old-Habits-with-Davies-Chester-Katsonga/264767067004496.  This is a page where I can share with my fellow Malawians on the current issues, issues that Malawi cannot afford to go through again and possible changes that can benefit the country if a transformative and visionary leader is chosen….towards a better future for each and every Malawian.

*The Author is Davies Chester Katsonga, Interim President of Chipani Cha Pfuko, Former Speaker and Government Minister.

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