British High Commissioner to Malawi, Michael Nevin has urged Malawi government to create an environment that would help to transform Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) from state controlled media house to a public broadcaster.
He was addressing media practitioners in Lilongwe on Tuesday evening as part of the observance of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, a day which was designated by the United Nations to assess and reinforce the need for a free press.
Since attaining multiparty democracy, MBC has been toeing the line of the ruling political parties.
But Malawians heaved a sigh of relief when President Joyce Banda in her maiden speech in Parliament shared a dream of seeing MBC featuring opposition leaders, but it seems the dream has not come to fruition.
“There is a wonderful opportunity also to change the perception of bias on political and social affairs of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation,” said the British diplomat.
“ Too many successive governments have restricted and frustrated the capable journalists, editors and producers at MBC from delivering balanced coverage and debate,” he noted, adding “the underlying and sometimes overt threat of dismissal for an employee — whether from MBC or any other media outlet — through political pressure from any side surely has no place in today’s Malawi.”
The British High Commissioner said: “Intimidation and threats are wrong and we will make our views known if we suspect it.”
Media watchdog Misa recently called on 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 as is the case now.
Nevin said he therefore welcome Malawi government’s engagement with MISA on public broadcasting reform and the commitment to uphold MBC’s independence.
“The lead up to next year’s tripartite elections offers an opportunity to prove that Malawi and MBC has embraced that principle,” he said.
MBC gets subvention from the national purse where every Malawian who pays tax contributes
Nevin reiterated the commitment by London in championing the right to freedom of expression in Malawi.