Why is MACRA intimidating Malawi private radio stations?

Last week Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) summoned Zodiak radio station over the remarks MP and People’s Party third vice-president Kamlepo Kalua made during an interview. Macra was not happy with Kalua’s remarks that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime killed Robert Chasowa  [ also ACB’s Issa Njauju] and that DPP wants to shed blood again.

Mervis Mangulenje, board chair of Macra

Mervis Mangulenje, board chair of Macra

This is not the first time MACRA has summoned a privately-owned radio station. Last June Dziko radio  of Chikumbutso Mtumodzi was summoned for a phone-in programme in which callers criticized president Mutharika for rampant corruption in government and rising poverty.

On the face of it, MACRA gives the impression that it is doing its work to enforce the Communication Act. But reading between the lines it is clear that that MACRA is intimidating private radio stations that are critical of the government and DPP officials and their cronies? There is nothing like lacking “journalistic judgement by allowing Kamlepo Kalua to make sensitive remarks without being directed or controlled.”

What constitutes “sensitive remarks”? Is it not common knowledge that DPP operatives including the police had a hand in the killing of the harmless student Robert Chasowa whose case has stalled? Did people not die at the hands of UDF operatives? How many times have DPP officials and ministers attacked or made sensitive remarks about the opposition on MBC but Macra has done nothing about them?

Macrashould not fight DPP battles or settle political scores for DPP.While it has mandate to enforce the Communications Act, it is not itsduty to defend the DPP or their cronies. It has to be impartial in its work and not use the Act selectively. If there is a radio station in Malawi that requires to be taken to task it is the state-controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

Over the years, it has been used as a toxic propaganda machine for the governing party and their cronies. It has never been professional in its news coverage. It is irritatingly one-sided in favour of government and governing elite who use the public radio like their personal property. It serves parochial interests of a few people. It has shamelessly abdicated its legal responsibility to serve all Malawians regardless of their political beliefs or affiliation as prescribed under Section 87 of the Communications Act.

How many times have ministers and party zealots (whether under UDF, PP or DPP) used state-controlled MBC to attack the opposition? Has MBC given the opposition the right of reply? Has Macra summoned MBC at any one point over the hate speech?

Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Communications is so ineffective that it has equally failed to ensure that Macra and MBC remain apolitical institutions to serve all Malawians.

Private radio stations, like private newspapers, are doing a commendable job in covering divergent views. They are providing a voice to the voiceless. And this should be guarded jealously!

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16 thoughts on “Why is MACRA intimidating Malawi private radio stations?”

  1. Melisa says:

    Nalero, you are showing your ignorance here. You do not regulate content in the manner you putting it. Are you saying criticizing the government or a political party should be regulated?

  2. Nalero says:

    Issa, please go back to school and read media law especially on defamation. You say Zodiak should be left alone and if anything charges should be levelled against Kamlepo alone as Zodiak only acted as a messenger. The law of defamation does not exonerate or exempt the publisher, messenger ( in this case the broadcaster). If you say something defaming against me on Zodiak, I can successfully sue you and Zodiak. So in this case Zodiak also shoulders the blame.

    1. Spade says:

      Nalero, what is your take on a level field? On regulating and summoning MBC as well?

  3. be humane says:

    koma a MCP muli ndi mavuto ambiri. Mulira mpaka misonzi ya maganzi. mwatsala ndi zaka zitatu mukulira kuti mudzayambe chigawo china cha zaka 5. Nyasatimes pitirizani kukweza BP ya MCP ndi nkhani zanuzi. Right to expression does not including inciting violence or say things you don’t have evidence. Ngati Kamlepo has evidence our Laws accept that he can take government to court and he knows that. Iye as Legislator munthu opanga Malamuli akuwopa chani and resorting to making noise in the Media? As chair person of PAC bwanji confering to a chair a PAC to convine a meeting and map the way forward on the un established ministers? That shows lack of substance. This is DPP and not UDF imene imamuopa kamlepo ija chifukwa ankamuona ngati ophinzira kwambiri but now he is just a mere bacisally educated Malawian

  4. Issa says:

    Nalero you are the one showing ignorance here, sorry mate. Regulation is supposed to be done on a levelled ground. I live in one of the countries you called advanced but they don’t regulate political comments simply because they are made by the opposition. If Kamlepo made any comments capable of causing upheaval he should be charged not Zodiak who is our humble messenger. The issue is fire the seven ministers who swindled our money. Or at least show us the initial report. This is a deliberate attempt to divert our attention from the real issue. Lie!!!!!! Fire the seven ministers or publish the initial report.

    1. Nalero says:

      This is the most ignorant comment I have ever read. In defamation law, a publisher ” messenger” ( a broadcaster in this case) is not exempted or exonerated from defamation remarks or remarks that can cause upheaval as you call it. Even Malani Mtonga himself knows this as a journalist.

      1. Spade says:

        Nalero, what is your take on a level field? On regulating and summoning MBC as well?

      2. Mwananyanian says:

        “Nalero” seems to know what he’s writing about. Convincing..

    2. chonchobe says:

      are you in a democratic nation?

  5. OMEX70 says:

    I commented last week on the issue of Macra summoning Zodiak. I will say it again that Malawi will never develop if the appointments into parastatal organization are based on loyalty to the governing party. We have a lot of useless people like Mervis Mangulenje who are leading very important boards. The only qualification which has brought them to those positions is their loyalty to DPP Nothing else. MBC is always biased in its programming yet you have never heard that these stupid people from MACRA have summoned anyone from MBC for hearing or warning. What nonsense is this? Loook at MEC, we have people like Moffati Banda who have been sent there to fulfil the interests of DPP. How can Malawi progress with this nonsense?

  6. Nalero says:

    Lowani Mtonga don’t show your ignorance here. You mean MACRA should not regulate content? Is there any country in the world that do not regulate broadcasting content? Even in the advanced democracies like UK and USA they regulate content. So you mean people should be left to talk whatever they want on TV or radio? Do you know that 2 million Rwandans died in 1994 genocide because of broadcasting content which was not regulated?

    1. Nadzulo says:

      So MBC can air Kaliati’s insults unregulated and it is okay, huh? Lazy thinking at its peak!

    2. Gama says:

      Nalero, you are very backward in thinking. Lowani’s argument is not that what Macra did is wrong. What he is saying is that Macra should treat all media houses equally. If you are a right thinking person, do you really think MBC is performing well and therefore does not need a summon from Macra? Why is Macra targeting Zodiak and other private media and not the stinking MBC? You seem to be a well-versed person but unfortunately, you are blinded by blind loyalty to DPP? Or should I say you are not in Malawi and therefore you have never had a chance to listen or watch MBC?

    3. Charombanthu says:

      So what is your argument dude? Are you referring to developed nations like UK and USA or a developing nation like Rwanda? If you refer to the UK or the USA, which you have, just listen to what Trump says on his campaign trails and you will know that you are lost. I am assuming you know what CNN and Trump are. When you resort to attacking the messenger and not the message, you have lost the plot. In other words “Do not shoot the messenger”. How many times has MBC told the nation that MCP killed Gadama, Matenje, etc (MHSRIP) and how many times has MACRA reprimanded them? Never comment on issues you have no clue about. You just show how shallow-minded you are.

  7. Spade says:

    I have said it before. I Malawi is so underdeveloped, it is because of MBC. Instead of promoting patriotism and nationalism, it promotes hatred. Instead of programs that would help in mindset change on issues of food and standard of living, all we see is politics. 12pm – Msonkhano wa DPP, 6pm – Nkhani mchingerezi, 6:20pm – This is London, 7pm – Nkhani mchichewa, 7:30pm – Tikupatsiranjinso msonkhano wa DPP. The following day, zochitika ku MCP okupatsirani ndi a Felix Jumbe, Kenako tibwerezanso msonkhano. Masana, lero bwana ali ku Salima, Tikupatsirani msinkhano. Zachitsamunda zenizeni. Borrow a leaf from BTV pa Botswana apa kapena SABC pa joni. Those are what we call national broadcasters. In fact the best that can happen to MBC is closure. Tidzachite kuyambiranso

  8. John Black says:

    The problem lies with the executive branch of government control over Macra, as well as excessive regulation. The Macra board and director should b appointed by the Parliamentary commission on nomination from a commission of experts from the media industry. The President and the Minister should have nothing to do with it.
    Also the regulations are too tight to ensure freedom of speech which is tantamount to a well functioning democracy. We need to do away with regulations on the content of radio stations.
    Macra should only be a technical regulator and stay away from content. – See more at: http://www.nyasatimes.com/macra-intimidating-malawi-private-radio-stations/#sthash.WJRxm7CR.dpuf

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