Don’t intimidate Malawi media; Hail US elections

I wish to liken the decision by Chanco Radio and Television to be part of the Mount Soche Declaration with what my late father (MHSRIP) did some 50 years ago.

Misa chair Thom  Khanje and Presidential chief spinner Molande

Misa chair Thom Khanje and Presidential chief spinner Molande

He did a noble thing that saved lives and livestock and brought normalcy in his area. But he took flak for using a weapon he was not ‘legally’ supposed to use.

He killed a marauding lion that had been terrorising the community, killing livestock and creating tension in and around Mzimba South and its surrounding areas as people lived in fear and could not carry out their daily chores such as farming while children could not go to school unaccompanied.

The lion killed several head of cattle from the surrounding villages in and around Hoho, Champhira, Ehehleni, Kazingilira, Chimtembo, Luviri, Chamaji, Lupachi, Dwambazi, to mention but a few areas, before my father thought enough was enough.

As they say once a soldier always a soldier. Having fought in the Second World War, MWC—as he was fondly known locally—thought he would not let this beast continue on its rampage when he could do something about it.

His late grandfather, Simon Chuchululu Nhlane, (who once held the Native Authority chieftaincy which is now Mzikubola) had bequeathed to him shotguns which he had been using for hunting game.

When efforts by government game rangers to hunt down and kill the stray carnivore yielded no fruit, he vowed to do something. The long and short of it is that he killed the lion using one of the shotguns he had been keeping much to the relief of the community.

But ironically for accomplishing what government game rangers failed to do, law-enforcers arrested and prosecuted him. He was charged with using an unlicensed shotgun. I can’t remember the finer details but he spent a few days in police custody and paid a fine for that.

The larger good, however, was that after he killed the lion normalcy returned to the area and people lived happily ever after.

Representatives of Chanco Radio and Television who appended their signatures to the Mount Soche Declaration may be subjected to all kinds of rebuke and be reprimanded by their bosses. But the larger good will outlive their suffering.

For starters, the Mount Soche Declaration is a statement media owners, managers, directors and representatives of news media organisations in Malawi issued last Monday affirming their resolve to continue fighting for freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Malawi following recent overtures by State House and President Peter Mutharika to muzzle the press.

Like the good that MWC did to his community and suffered for it, no one will take away the fact that the representatives of Chanco Radio and Television did a noble thing to support and append their signature to the declaration. They may take flak from the authorities for using a forum that does not sit well with government but the larger good will remain and posterity will prove them right.

The media the world over has a great responsibility of informing the people on issues that impact on their lives, providing them with platforms to discuss, debate and engage their elected leaders.

No media house can do this in an atmosphere where journalists and media houses are subjected to intimidation, threats and violence.

The media should jealously guard against any effort by overzealous leaders to limit its space in performing its role. It should continue to present a united front and regard attacks on one as an attack on all. It should unequivocally reject divide and rule machinations by the State.

The media has a moral responsibility to work with its elected governments and to perform to the best of its ability in an ethical, fair and balanced manner. As the Fourth Estate, it has a noble task of ensuring separation of powers between the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature and that elected leaders are always accountable to the people who elected them to office. If the media cannot do that, it has no reason to exist.

Let me end this article by congratulating Donald Trump—the US president-elect, and secretary Hillary Clinton—for a well fought battle for the White House. Acrimonious as the campaign was many times, Trump’s and Clinton’s postures after the election have many lessons for Malawi’s fledgling democracy. Hail Trump, Hail Clinton.

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