Activists, media hail MBC on covering debate

The State broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has received credit from some influential civil society organisations and media institutions for beaming live the historical first Presidential debate held at the Bingu International Conference Centre auditorium room in Lilongwe.

MBC alongside Times TV and Zodiak Broadcasting Corporation beamed live the first round of a series of Presidential debates organized by MISA with funding from Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa and UKAid which saw eight out of the 12 presidential candidates battling it out on various issues of national interest.

In its editorial comment of April 23, 2014, one of Malawi’s flagship daily newspaper, The Nation commended the state broadcaster for such a historical feat.

Mtambo : CHRR commends MBC
Mtambo : CHRR commends MBC
One direction for Malawi: Candidates show unity at the debate
One direction for Malawi: Candidates show unity at the debate

“State broadcasters, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) also deserve a pat on the back for beaming live the debate despite the absence of the Head of State. It behaved like a truly national broadcaster despite one or two hitches that saw the signal going off air” read  editorial comment of the daily titled “Bravo eight presidential hopefuls, MBC”  reads.

Concurring with newpaper’s observation, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Executive Director Timothy Mtambo said while there is still a lot to be done in order to make MBC accessible to all, its coverage of the Presidential debates was a great milestone.

“While it is a common truth that our state-run MBC tends to be skewed towards the government and the ruling party, some recent events have to some extent offered some hope that MBC is not beyond redemption. The coverage of the recent presidential debates is one such example and a great milestone and MBC must be hence commended for acting in a democratic and professional manner,” said the outspoken Mtambo.

According to Mtambo, MBC’s beaming of the presidential debate only indicates that the state-run media can be accessible to all political parties as long as there is political will to do so.

“MBC’s historical beaming of the presidential debate only shows us that even in the current context there is still a high possibility for MBC to be accessible to all political parties as long as there is strong political will to allow it to be guided by the dictates of the law and media ethics in all of its operations.

Mtambo added:“The law is adequate enough to ensure that MBC functions professionally by opening up to all. Section 87 [2] [a] and [d] directly demand MBC to be free from bias in its reporting. However, the only obstacle to achieving this has been lack of political will on the part of those in the ruling elite to remove their tight grip of it by ensuring that it adheres to the law.”

The CHRR chief then applauded the Joyce Banda’s administration for some recent remarkable strides registered by MBC including the presidential debate and the gradual opening up of MBC to opposition parties but argued there was still a lot of work to be done.

“President Joyce Banda must also be commended for some recent strides registered by MBC including the presidential debates as well as the gradual opening up of MBC to opposition parties. Nevertheless, we observe that the President and the ruling party are still enjoying a lion’s share in MBC’s coverage of political parties. This is a drawback towards ensuring a free and credible tripartite election.” said Mtambo.

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