Media scholar and fervent critic Pearson Nkhoma has questioned the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter inaugural online media award won by Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) presented on Saturday evening at the climax of this year’s World Press Freedom Day Gala and Awards ceremony held for the first time at Sunbird Nkopola Lodge’s Lakeshore International Conference Centre in Mangochi.
Nkhoma, a fearless critic on Misa Malawi forum group, questioned the criteria used for ZBS to beat other well established and popular websites with global appeal such as Nyasa Times, Malawi24, Daily Times and The Nation online among others.
The PhD student in media for development, who co-founded the Malawi24.com together with Prophet Sheppard Bushiri’s PR Kelvin Sulugwe, said ZBS by far pales out with such websites.
“Congratulations to Zodiak Online for beating other online media such as Malawi24.com ranked globally around 250,000 and with a Facebook.com/Malawi24page that is verified by FB with close to 320,000 followers and also the only online publication I checked last which was included on internet.org/freebasics initiative,” Nkhoma wrote.
“Nyasa Times the most popular online media in Malawi with global ranking of 80,000 (that’s not a small achievement),times.mw with a global ranking of 1.4 million, mwnation.com (ranked 650,000). Congrats Zodiak just check its FB page on how frequent it indeed shares its posts and news updates.’
A panel of judges chaired by Owen Kadewere.fell short of justifying how they arrived at Zodiak and it was greeted his a din of disapprovals right at the ceremony.
However, it has been learnt that media house were expected to pay institutional membership fee to be considered for the award and that Zodiak paid in the online category hence they were only one considered.
The judges stated that it reaches out to the people in the diaspora and stations such as Capital Radio and now Malawi Broadcasting Corporation are able to do same through live-streaming.
Capial Radio is probably the most attractive and updated online websites covering a wide range of issues.
‘Times champions deservedly’
During the awards ceremony, Times Group won the Print Media House of the Year Award for being the country’s oldest media house and leading in innovations such as diversifying to radio and television whereas Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) got the radio category of the Electronic Media House of the Year. Times TV was named the best television.
The media champions status of Times Group has been welcomed by human right activist Mankhumbo Munthali, formerly of Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation.
“ If truth be told, the news that Times Group has won the MISA media house of the year award (Print) has not come as a surprise to some of us. The Times Group deserves the award big time. I vividly remember – a few months ago in Salima (at a certain national governance consultative meeting) with collegues from the Civil Society and academia- discussing about the pivotal role the print media was playing in contributing towards consolidation of democratic governance in the country through fearless reporting on the subject matter.
“However, of particular interest to me was our collective observation about how Times Group through Daily Times, Malawi News and Sunday Times had of the recent past become outstanding and progressive in as far as exposing the gaffes and malaise that had characterised our political and economic governance sphere in the process providing a more conducive platform and space for a robust social accountability movement in the country,” Munthali took to Facebook to post his comment.
He continued: “ Our consensus was that Times Group, if the recent experience especially since 2015 were anything to go by, had to a greater extent been more progressive and fearless in reporting the issues that really matter to the common Malawian within the scope of democratic governance. The recent news that Times Group had won the MISA award only confirmed our observations and reflections. Times Group deserves the award. Congratulations to Times Group editorial team! Congratulations to Times Group journalists! Congratulations to the media fraternity! #Pass Access to Information Now,”
Nation Publications Limited (NPL) journalists also won individual awards and the included former Nyasa Times reporter Rebecca Chimjeka (Investigative Journalist of the Year-Print) , James Chavula (Best Social Accountability and Climate Change Adaptation and Tourism Journalist of the Year awards), Sharra (two awards stated above) and Joseph Mwale (Best Democracy and Good Governance Journalist of the Year)
Others were Albert Sharra who emerged the 2016 Overall Winner for the story ‘Boys living dangerously: Saving minors from danger’ that also won him the Paediatric and HIV/Aids Journalist of the Year, Rex Chikoko (Business and Economics Journalist of the Year-Print), Ephraim Nyondo (Education Journalists of the Year-Print), and Mercy Malikwa (Best Public Infrastructure Management Journalist of the Year).
Tenthani posthumously honoured
Journalist Raphael Tenthani, a former columnist and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) correspondent who died in a road accident last year, was honoured posthumously with the Lifetime Achiever Award.
The United States of America (USA) Embassy added icing to the cake by naming the columnist of the year award after Tenthani. The award, one of the three sponsored by the US Embassy and whose winners are determined by Misa Malawi members’ votes, was retained by Madalisto Mussa of The Sunday Times.
Under the US Embassy awards, Brian Banda of Times TV won the Radio Talk Show Host of the Year Award while Richard Chirombo, also of Times Group, was named Blogger of the YearFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :