Malawi journalists unhappy with presidential ‘press rallies’

Malawi journalists are expressing concern over President Joyce Banda’s continued culture of ‘press rallies’ which late president Bingu wa  Mutharika was conducting.

The concern follows a news conference held by President Banda at Sanjika palace on Saturday, on her arrival from Equatorial Guinea in the presence of political party cohorts, who created a hostile environment to journalists that attended the event.

Journalists were booed by party loyalists when they asked critical questions to the Head of State.

At the peak of his reign, former president Mutharika shuffled venues for the holding of news conferences between State House and the airport, especially when returning from abroad.

Journalists at a press conference

Journalists at a press conference

Some argued the development left media practitioners exposed to ridicule and insults from party officials and hoodlums, who in one way or the other, found their way into these press rallies.

And speaking in an interview, the Malawi chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Malawi) vice chairman Thom Khanje emphasized the need for the government to make sure that party supporters are not allowed to news conferences.

“Without necessarily having to point a finger, it is evident that the media need to have a conducive environment in order to discharge their duty professionally and in a diligent manner when handling presidential functions” observed Khanje.

He said organizers of such functions as well as the media themselves should make sure that party cohorts and officials who have no business being at a presidential conference, are not left to interject or influence proceedings meant for the media.

Khanje asked President Banda to hold news conference when arriving from abroad at the VVIP lounge at the airport or at State House without party zealots.

Newspaper columnist, Raphael Tenthani, writing in his ‘Muckraking on Sunday’ published in the Sunday Times  recently advised new press secretary Steve Nhlane and a band of press officers  to bring sanity into the president’s office in the way they conduct the news conference.

But government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu was defensive, saying the presser have always been conducted in appropriate areas.

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