Malawi private media owners and managers fear the State House and President Peter Mutharika plan to silence the independent media once and for all but have vowed to fight on as public’s watchdog.
The media gurus met at Mount Soche Hotel on Monday November 7, 2016 and deliberated on the worrying trend by the Mutharika regime with a view to limit the media space in the performance of its duty enlighten the public on how it is being governed.
The meeting was conducted following remarks Mutharika made in Mchinji during campaign for by-elections about Zodiak Broadcasting Station and Times Group, publishers of Malawi News, The Daily Times, Sunday Times and operators of Times Radio and Times TV.
The media houses and managers at the meeting included those from Zodiak, Capital Radio, MIJ FM, Chanco Radio/TV Station, BETA TV, Nation Publications Limited and Times Group.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chapter and Media Council of Malawi also attended the meeting and endorsed a statement issued thereafter.
The media managers expressed concern with what they called “the highly belligerent attitude” that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government has taken against the independent media “to silence it from telling Malawians the truth.”
They accused President Mutharika for championing the media attacks by blaming the gossiping and speculation surrounding his health on the media when Mutharika himself took the blame that he did not have his Staff with him in the US after the United Nations General Assembly because he sent them home.
“As if the above was not enough the President threw all caution to the wind and called the media, Times Group and Zodiak Broadcasting Station – ZBS in particular, in Mchinji as disgusting and that they write nonsense and garbage,” the media houses statement noted.
The media have also threatened to boycott news conferences by the President, poining out that what happens at the State House is not a press conference but a “press rally.”
“All this happens despite the fact that the independent media through National Media Institute of Southern Africa – NAMISA and Media Council of Malawi – MCM have complained against such a practice but nothing has changed as exemplified by the harassment that journalists suffered during the last press conference the President addressed at State House on his trip from the US,” the statement said.
The media made declaration that they will not be attending news conferences at State House by the President “in an atmosphere of intimidation”.
They also press for passing into law the Access to Information Bill.
“We therefore declare our rights to pursue all lawful means in our efforts to perform our roles as news media houses. Such rights shall include:
- Respecting and implementing guidelines and decisions of our watchdog organisations, the Media Council of Malawi, MCM and NAMISA
- Recourse to the Courts of Law of the Republic of Malawi
- Boycott of Press Conferences of the Head of State
- Black-outs of all news of the Head of State and Cabinet Ministers
- Move the courts to seek interpretation on the role of the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority –MACRA which behaves as a Policeman, Prosecutor, Juror and Judge in regulating and policing private electronic media.
- We will present a united front as a media and regard attacks on one as an attack on us all.
- We will reject divide and rule machinations by the State and we will only negotiate through our mother bodies, Media Council of Malawi and NAMISA
- We will ensure that we stick to professionalism and be above board in the execution of our duties.”
But the State House has declared the media “ cannot bully the Head of State with propaganda and false reports.”
President Mutharika’s director of communications, Bright Molande, told a weekly paper that: “ The trouble we have is that there are media houses that want to criticise everybody, but they don’t want to be criticised.”
Media Council executive director Vales Machila had written State House offering to mediate between President Mutharika and the media but their intervention was dismissed.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :