Government has been asked to turn Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to a public broadcaster from a state broadcaster especially as the county heads towards the May 20 Tripartite Elections.
The call has been made by British High Commissioner Michael Nevin, according to published reports.
This comes after many commentators have expressed worry that the continued political interference and even censorship in the field of state TV and radio broadcasting is unacceptable and retrogressive.
Nevin appealed for professional independence and asked government to leave MBC journalists, Editors and senior managers “to do their job professionally.” He expressed worry that the “brief period of liberalisation” at MBC radio and television “has been choked again.”
The British diplomat said opening up of MBC “is not only a democratic principle but it makes commercial sense because if MBC concentrate on announcing one-sided issues, they will lose listenership for the radio and viewership for the TV.”
MBC gets subvention from the national purse where every Malawian who pays tax contributes. Many commentators say it is worrisome to deny the taxpayer an opportunity of accessing public resources.
University of Malawi’s constitutional lawyer Associate Professor Edge Kanyongolo argued that MBC is required by law to open up to all political parties not only during elections but all times.
“If MBC does not open up, they are infringing the law and this will catch up with them in future said Kanyongolo as quoted by The Nation.
MBC director general Benson Tembo could not comment on the pretext that he was “on leave “.
Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said the commission cannot force MBC to open up until March 17 when the official campaign period starts.
It has always been argued that the freedom of the state media broadcasting is based on the right guaranteed by the constitution and in conformity with which individuals can search, receive, prepare, pass and spread information legally.
There have been growing calls for the state broadcaster to be transformed into independent institutions of public broadcasting whose mandate will be to serve public interest and not partisan political interests of those in power.