A local governance analyst Makhumbo Munthali has warned that the regrettable behaviour of MBC (TV, Radios 1 and 2, and Online) and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra)continued failure to discipline State broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has the potential to create instability and tension leading to the state of anarchy in the country especially as the nation approach the 2019 Tripartite elections.
The warning comes against the continued public outcry of government’s interference in the operations of MACRA and MBC.
However, in a questionnaire response to Nyasa Times, Munthali said that if the issue of MACRA and MBC’s selective justice and biasness is not resolved in good time it can in the near future fuel anarchy as we approach the highly emotive 2019 Tripartite elections.
“It is important that the media plays a crucial role in as far as civic education is concerned prior to and during the elections. However, at the same time the media can fuel violence through propaganda tailored messages that preach hatred rather than unity. This is where the role of MACRA and Malawi Electirol Commission (MEC) comes in ensuring that all media houses stick to ethical codes of conduct by ensuring fair and propaganda free messages during the election period.
”Regrettably, the tax-payer money run MBC has all along been immune to regulation by both MACRA and MEC during the electoral period when advancing hate and propaganda programs against critics of government like ‘Makiyolobasi’ and ‘Sapita Kawiri’ while private broadcasters have been extensively monitored and regulated by MACRA regardless of whether there is election or not. This case of selective justice if not checked may result in anarchy where some private broadcasters may decide to deliberately not adhere to the Communications Act by advancing partisan interest.” warned Munthali.
Munthali further wondered why it was becoming impossible for MACRA to discipline MBC despite the evidence of its continued breach of the law.
“We continue to see government sponsored activists, religious leaders, and traditional leaders being paraded on MBC to either attack government critics or stand in the way of proposed legislations or policies that would uplift the lives of Malawians and improve democratic governance in the country. All this has been happening under the watch of MACRA and in some cases MEC (when in relation to the electoral period).
“MBC’s behaviour has been contrary to Section 87(1) and 87(2) of the Communications Act and Section 63 of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act which mandate MBC to function without any political bias by ensuring equality and fairness in its coverage. Worse still, MBC has been acting in contempt of court of the 1999 High Court ruling which ordered it to comply with its legal duty as prescribed,” queried Munthali.
Reacting to MACRA’s summoning of Zodiak Broadcasting Corporation over a CSO-sponsored advert promo for 27 April demos, Munthali said the message in the promo was a true reflection of reality on the ground.
“Yes, the tone of the advert may be abit strong but when you listen to the message and issues raised in the advert they are surely a true reflection of the reality on the ground in as far as the political, socio-economic situation is concerned. Issues of alarming rates of youthful unemployment, University school fees hikes, poor salaries of civil servants including the Police, the dubious K4 Billion “miracle” fund, corruption are some of the key issues affecting Malawians at the moment. In fact, even if you listen to the description of the current regime as “boma ili ndi lozunza” (this is a torturing government) in reference to the issues raised in the advert and also the current worsening state of political and economic governance, one would think the Advert is being polite to the DPP government. If truth be told, the best phrases that would have been used to resonate well with the status quo would have been: ‘boma ili ndi lokupha! Boma ili ndilambava! Boma ili ndila makhuluku”, said Munthali