In a typical tit-for-tat style civil society organisations (CSOs) chased a state controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Television (MBC TV) crew from their news conference held in the capital, Lilongwe on Tuesday, accusing them of not reporting their news objectively.
And one of the CSOs leaders Voice Mhone said the action was also in line with recent government action whereby it has not been welcoming private media houses to state functions especially those held by President Bingu wa Mutharika.
“It is clear that MBC TV is not for our course and that is why we have asked them not to participate in this function. Even in their own camp they chase other journalists so it is just a matter of who is on which side,” said Mhone.
The MBC TV personnel comprising cameraman Gerald Ntaba and reporter-cum-news analyst Chawezi Banda arrived at the venue of the presser in the auditorium of Crossroads Hotel almost 20 minutes before the CSO members took their seats.
The two went ahead installing their camera in the room but just before the panellists started addressing the journalists the two were seen packing their equipment and silently walked out of the room before Mhone announced that they have been chased.
Mhone is the chairman of the Council for Non-Governmental Organisation (Congoma) and leader of the CSO side on the ongoing dialogue with government to resolve the 20 issues presented in the July 20, 2011 petition.
CSOs at the news conference included Human Rights Defenders (Malawi Chapter), Civic and Political Space, Governance Platform, and member CSOs of the Malawi Human Rights Consultative Committee.
Among several issues the human rights activists faulted Mutharika administration for executing “executive arrogance” in his approach to issues with no willingness to take opposing views or advice to solve the current problems locking the country.
The CSOs observed that it was this arrogance that has led to numerous problems including the fuel, forex and drug shortages, high taxes through the zero-deficit budget, poor governance and disregard of human rights, sour relationship with donors, the ongoing judicial strike, and the failure by government to pay in time civil servants.
HRCC chairperson Undule Mwakasungula also expressed concerns and condemned continued attacks of human rights defender. He said the arrest on Monday of Ralph Kasambara a human rights lawyer, was just one of the many examples of such attacks aimed at silencing the CSOs.
He, however, said despite such threats and intimidation the activists are not going to stop the struggle to ensure good governance in the country.
“We are very much concerned and condemn the arrest of Ralph. We call upon government to release him unconditionally,” said Mwakasungula.
On the zero-deficit budget Civil Society Coalition for Quality Education national coordinator Benedicto Kondowe said: “We do not think that it is fair for the President to claim that this zero-deficit budget policy is not dangerous when Malawians are suffering. The statistics presented by the President that explain that revenue surpasses expenditure are a mere fantasy.”
Updating the media on the dialogue Mhone said out of the 20 issues raised in the July 20 petition the two sides have only managed to tackle and conclude three issues-the Chancellor College stand-off, shortage of drugs and the review of the bad laws enacted recently.
He, however, said that should the CSOs see nothing out of the remaining issues they will still pull out of the dialogue in March.
“We will now leave it to Malawians to take centre stage on what they want from their government,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :