Civil society organisation has called for a free and open Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) in a petition presented on Tuesday during the anti-government protests in Lilongwe.
The rights campaigners accused government over the use of the public radio station and television, saying they were not operating as national broadcaster but propaganda stations for the ruling party.
“Malawians are concerned with the continued politicization of the state-media especially Malawi Broadcasting Corporation which continues to be a sole mouthpiece of the ruling party, and has often been used as a vessel to unleash attacks/propaganda of any critical voice,” reads the petition which was presented to President Mutharika through Lilongwe Chief Executive Richard Hara.
The CSOs condemned government for “parading of chiefs, vendors on state media to attack critical voices of the regime”, saying that “should be stopped.”
The activists asked government not to interfere with MBC editorial independence, condemning he continued political interference and even censorship in the field of state TV and radio broadcasting as unacceptable and retrogressive.
British High Commissioner Michael Nevin is also on record saying that every administration has wanted to control MBC to stop divergent views from being aired.
“I know that the journalists, the editors and senior managers at MBC are professional and they need to be left alone to do their job professionally. That is not only a democratic principle but it makes commercial sense because if MBC concentrate on announcing one-sided issues, they will lose listenership for the radio and viewership for the TV,” Nevin is on record saying.
MBC gets subvention from the national purse where every Malawian who pays tax contributes. Many commentators say it is worrisome to deny the taxpayer an opportunity of accessing public resources.
University of Malawi’s constitutional lawyer Associate Professor Edge Kanyongolo argued that MBC is required by law to open up to all political parties not only during elections but all times.
It has always been argued that the freedom of the state media broadcasting is based on the right guaranteed by the constitution and in conformity with which individuals can search, receive, prepare, pass and spread information legally.
There have been growing calls for the state broadcaster to be transformed into independent institutions of public broadcasting whose mandate will be to serve public interest and not partisan political interests of those in power.
Meanwhile, the civil society groups have also pointed out that the Mutharika government is “equally only rhetorically committed” to passing the Access to Information Bill.
“Malawians observe that the enactment of access to information law is taking unnecessarily too long,” CSOs noted.
They reminded government that Access to Information Bill is a Constitutional provision which can only be exercised upon its enactment.
According to CSOs the Bill will help “inculcating the culture of transparency and accountability in public finance” and the nation at large which will also contribute in our fight against evil act such as fraud, corruption, rooting and plundering of resources.
The Malawi Cabinet in February 2014 approved an access to information policy, setting the stage for introduction of ATI legislation.
Minister of Information and Civic Education Kondwani Nankhumwa said he will soon present an access to information bill to parliament.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :