President Arthur Peter Mutharika has called on the media in the country to uphold to their professional ethics in their work while government continues to respect their independence as the fourth arm of a democracy.
The President said this on Thursday at Kamuzu Palace when he met media owners in the country who paid him a courtesy call to deliberate crucial issues that affect the two institutions.
Media independence, President Mutharika said- remains the bedrock of democracy just as is the case with a responsible media that adheres to its own ethics.
“In a mature democracy, I believe the media should police its ethics and discipline itself. You must be your own watchdog. I know that the media in Malawi does not write about itself; it does not criticise itself. As I speak, a lot of organisations (including international organisations) are worried about the conduct and integrity of some reporters but there is no reporter who can make that a headline – just to illustrate the point about responsibility and accountability.
“ But the media cannot be policing everyone, holding everyone accountable without policing itself, and holding itself accountable. This is a challenge we need to resolve,” said the President.
Commenting on the now-controversial Access To Information (ATI) Bill, President Mutharika promised the nation (not only the media) that it will be passed into law once all inconsistencies have been rectified.
However, he was quick to mention that the bill should not be used as a bargain tool with his government by tying it to aid as donors have been doing.
“I have even noted that our development partners are using it as another conditionality of donor aid although it was not the reason why they stopped aid. Other countries without this Bill are receiving budgetary support. Let me repeat that we are not going to pass the Bill to appease anyone. We will make this Bill into Law because I believe it is good for the country; and because it is good for access to information to be legally protected and regulated”.
He further asked the media to self-police themselves if their profession is to maintain its sacred nature.
“I know you have functioning systems and structures in place. You all have very brilliant policies in your media houses. But are they effectively followed in your newsrooms?,” he queried.
Adding: “You have the Media Council of Malawi and MISA Malawi. But do your regulatory frameworks tighten media ethics effectively? We don’t want Government to interfere with your day to day work, but we want a body like Media Council to function smoothly and effectively as the Law Society of Malawi or the Medical Council of Malawi. Government has the right to expect a responsible media that takes both our democracy and development forward”.
The Malawi leader reminded the media that the narrative of Malawi depends on how the media itself presents its content to the masses; both contemporary and future generations.
“One major reason why we are slow to develop in Malawi is our collective mindset, the way we think! Actually, we don’t have as serious problems as we think. Our first problem is that we are the
“We need a revolution of the mindset. There will never be any change unless we change. And I know that the media has the capacity to change our mindset. You have this weight of national duty on your shoulders,” noted the President.
The meeting came at the back of a statement issued by media owners some months ago in which they urged government to look into the ATI issue with urgency.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :