CSOs sorry for MBC journalists ‘rebuff’

Civil society organizations (CSOs) in Malawi have made an apology through the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter for chasing away state-run broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) journalists from covering their press conference on Tuesday.

A response to chairperson, Anthony Kasunda, titled ‘Our take on MISA’s statement’, says CSOs who organized and participated in the conference as held on Tuesday the 14th of February write to respond and acknowledge receipt of MISA Malawi’s statement regarding our conduct on TVM journalists. We wish to note the concerns raised in your statement and indicate that we have noted the same with great interest and appreciation.

“Without mincing words, we simply would like to express our profound remorse and apologies to the TVM Journalists for the humiliation we caused to them and the nation in particular for the inconvenience our actions caused,” it said, as posted on the regional media group’s forum, [email protected].

Kasunda: Condemned the chasing

MISA had officially released a statement that found the development as disturbing and a contradiction to the observance of the very constitutional requirements that CSOs claim to stand for and protect.

“We are therefore appealing to civil society leaders to exercise contact and dialogue with media houses as well as media bodies that represent the interests of journalists, whenever disagreements arise rather than proceeding to breach provisions of the Constitution.

MISA Malawi would like to call upon civil society organisations to adopt constructive strategies in advocating for change rather than being at the fore in infringing on the Republican Constitution, which clearly provides for journalists’ right to access information.

“We truly agree with the observation that you don’t quench fire with fire and wish to indicate that we may have overreacted due to the recent attacks the Station has been waging on CSO’s,” said the CSOs.

The apology also assured that CSO’s being progressive and responsible would like to indicate that they will engage and utilise appropriate means to communicate to Television Malawi (TVM) its concerns over its conduct and it is its hope that MISA will be there to help send the message to TVM Management.

“… and that it will also be able to raise concerns over the stations refusal to cover bona-fide CSO activities based on the understanding that we all contribute to the running of the station through taxes,” adds the response.

“We commit to continue serving the interest of the citizenry in good faith and commit ourselves to these principles.”

Earlier MISA wrote: “Much as we agree with civil society organisations on MBC’s bias towards government, we believe Malawians are rational and capable of judging for themselves whether a media house is biased or not. Barring reporters from covering a news briefing is retrogressive and unwarranted in any democracy worth the name.”

“Civil Society bodies should be in the forefront promoting and defending constitutional guarantees and not flouting them. Barring some sections of the media from covering functions could easily be construed as lack of tolerance and deliberate and strategic to deny Malawians access to opposing and critical information on our actions and plans.

“Such actions could further mean that civil society organizations only want to deal with media outlets that promote their cause, which is unhealthy and regrettable in a democracy,” said the statement.”

Civil society organisations, led by Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), organised a news conference to express their concerns on the arrest of Human Rights Lawyer Ralph Kasambara but refused to allow reporters from MBC to attend or cover the function.

“This is a favourable response that demonstrates understanding of issues at hand. As MISA Malawi be vigilant against destructive tendencies that various sections of the society may subtly wish to employ to rob the media/journalists of its/their freedom. Essentially (or fundamentally), a wrong is a wrong,” said former executive director at the Media Council of Malawi (MCM), Baldwin Chiyamwaka.

He added “it doesn’t matter who has committed it or to whom it has been directed. We should be able to delineate emotional reactions from rational and professional judgements. Civil Society acted emotionally and against the ethos of freedom of expression and thus of the media.”

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