The decision to omit and bar journalists from privately-owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) from attending President Peter Mutharika’s news conference at Kamuzu Palace was unanimously made by embattled Press Secretary Gerald Viola and his errand boy Sylvester Namiwa without the knowledge of the First Citizen, Nyasa Times has learnt.
Viola, who has lost grace in the eyes of the President for his poor performance, dictated to his junior Namiwa names of media houses and journalists he wanted at the news briefing.
Under his boss’s order, Namiwa dispatched invitations while deliberately leaving out Zodiak due to bad memories from the previous presser.
Four months ago when President Mutharika held a news briefing at the same venue on his return from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Viola bashed Zodiak journalist Theresa Ndanga and nearly denied her the microphone during question time. It was persistence that saw the female reporter grabbing the microphone to ask her questions.
Viola also attacked Zodiak alleging misconduct by the station during the July 20 2011 demonstrations and the death of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, the following year.
This time around when the Zodiak team arrived at the palace’s outer gate they found their names missing on the list and efforts to get clearance from inside proved futile as Viola and Namiwa refused to attend to the issue after being contacted by security personnel.
ZBS managing director Gospel Kazako said the media house, which runs a radio and television station, was not even invited to the news conference.
The behaviour by the two press officers has not amused both the President and Chief Secretary to government George Mkondiwa.
Both have separately reprimanded Viola and Namiwa for their unprofessional conduct which has reflected badly on the Presidency and State House alike.
Sources at State House say the President is embarrassed with what his press officers did because it does not tally with his philosophy for a free and professional media industry in a democratic community.
The future of Viola at the palace hangs in balance.
Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education Jappie Mhango said Mutharika’s administration is “committed to working with all media houses.”
Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chapter president Thom Khanje called the incident as “ very unfortunate and unacceptable.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :