PP disowns threats on Malawi media: Msonda says Chikuni ‘frustrated’

Malawi’s ruling People’s Party (PP) deputy publicity secretary Ken Msonda on Monday disowned as personal and not reflecting the position of the party threats by its deputy secretary general Ireen Chikuni for government to stop advertising in the private media.

Chikuni, speaking at a rally President Joyce Banda held in Ndirande Township, Blantyre on Sunday, also threatened that the party will deal with some journalists who write or broadcast what she called insults to President Banda.

But in reaction after being criticized by Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chapter, PP faulted Chikuni for her conduct before detaching itself from the remarks, which have been described as personal opinion.

Msonda told Nyasa Times  that Chikuni – a former special assistant to ex-president Bakili Muluzi –  erred in her conduct.

Msonda: Chikuni frustrated with bad press

“Do not judge us on what may have been said in one off expression of frustration, which is quiet human to do; to err is human,” Msonda said.

He added: “Our Deputy Secretary General Hon Mrs Irene Chikuni just like any other citizen, was simply exercising her Constitutional right to freedom of expression, opinion and speech. Her views are not necessarily that of the party’s policies and ideologies”.

According to Chikuni, journalists from certain media houses were abusing media  freedom by “insulting” the President on a daily basis.

But her party argues that Chikuni might have been carried-way by the presence of Banda at the rally and that she was frustrated over what ‘she may have seen as irresponsible and unfair attacks on Head of State and the PP led government’.

“You may appreciate that when things are not reported to your expectation, frustrations creep in although we always have to guard that. Sometimes when we are accorded an opportunity to speak at such a large gathering in the presence of Head of State, we are carried away and slip-over; such slippages cannot be avoided.

“I can confidently assure you of the fact you already know that of all the three governments that have led Malawi since independence, PP administration is the only one that has not only spoken about media freedom, but it has seen that freedom of and by the media is actually experienced and enjoyed,” said Msonda.

Anthony Kasunda, chairperson of Misa Malawi said in a statement no amount of intimidation and threats will divert the media in the country from its critical role of being a watchdog for society.

“People who contest for public positions should be ready and open to public scrutiny. The media in Malawi will not relent in holding those in public offices accountable to the people of Malawi.

“MISA Malawi would like to remind Madam Chikuni, and other party zealots who share this type of thinking, that some media houses and practitioners suffered during the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government because they were seen as sympathisers of President Joyce Banda when she was embattled Vice President of the country. It is very unfortunate that the same media houses and practitioners are attacked like this now that Banda is the President,”said Kasunda.

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