The ruling Democratic progressive Party (DPP) has woken from its deep slumber to follow the footsteps of three month old United Transformational Movement (UTM) in using private media to cover its rallies live on television.
For four years, DPP ignored private media houses with television and other social media platforms like Times TV and Zodiak TV, slapping them with suspicious tax charges and closing them down in the process.
But when Vice President Saulos Chilima launched his UTM at Masintha Ground in Lilongwe on July 21, 2018 and used Times TV, Zodiak TV and Mibawa TV to cover live the rally and stream it online, DPP is now following suit.
First it was DPP Vice President for the Southern Region, Kondwani Nankhumwa who hired Times TV to cover his rally at Bangwe Desert Ground recently live followed by the party’s Treasurer General Jappie Mhango who addressed a rally in Karonga and was covered live by Zodiak TV.
President Peter Mutharika did not want to be left in the band wagon of following UTM footsteps by also hiring Times TV to cover live the opening of Agriculture Fair in Blantyre on Wednesday.
However, observers said the public broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), should be ashamed for their continued bias towards the governing party hence even not winning confidence for the DPP for its wider coverage/
“While it is undisputable that the ruling party has started using the private media because of UTM, it is sad that it still does not want to open up airwaves for state controlled MBC for the opposition to also use it to cover their rallies live,” noted one political analyst.
MBC being a public broadcaster and not a party entity, is supposed to serve all Malawians equally and be run by professionals and not politicians but its content is criticised as largely biased towards the ruling party
One of the issues civil society organisations (CSOs) raised in their petition to President Mutharika in April was the opening up of the air waves by MBC.
The complaint about MBC being used as a political tool for the party in government is not new. It was a source of concern during the one party regime of Dr Kamuzu Banda. Bakili Muluzi used it too, during the 10 years he was in power. Late Bingu wa Mutharika with his DPP had a tight grip on it to the extent that MPs even refused to allocate funds to the public broadcaster. Joyce Banda, with her PP, was subtly using MBC to advance her image and party agenda.
The current regime has been using MBC by parading of chiefs and other pro-government individuals to discredit government critics which media expert Lowani Mtonga describes as “trappings of one-party regime hang over.”
Mtonga said: “The lack of editorial independence and opening up of MBC airwaves is against the spirit of Communications Act and the Constitution. The Communications Act clearly spells out under Section 87 of the public mandate of MBC to operate without any bias or serve any political interests.
“Secondly, MBC ignores the Constitution which categorically states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression and that the media has the right to publish freely. This entails MBC to be neutral and serve public interests regardless of people’s political views. It is a platform for public discourse which makes MBC to be in a unique position. But the broadcaster is falling short of this mandate,” he added.
The civil society organisations; namely, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter and the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn), have on several occasions also called on MBC to open up to all political parties.
MBC director general Aubrey Sumbuleta while acknowledging that there were some problems with their programming, said they are working hard to improve the approach to their content.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :