Free media quiz JB, Misa Malawi unhappy with party supporters at presser

Exercising freedom of expression and that of the media , journalists on Wednesday excited Malawians when they posed probing questions to President Joyce Banda at a news conference she held at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre on her arrival from New York, the United States of America.

Reporters from private media, notably Matindi FM, MIJ FM and Zodiak Broadcasting Services freely quizzed the Malawi leader on the Capital Hill financial maladministration and the shooting of Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo.

Pilirani Phiri, a reporter from Zodiak Broadcasting Station set the ball rolling when he asked the President to explain press reports which quoted her that she knew Mphwiyo’s assailants. He also asked President Banda to comments on fevered speculations that the looting at Capital Hill also benefitted her People’s Party fundraising drive.

“I am the one who asked for these investigations. I wouldn’t have [instituted] them if I were involved in the theft and had secrets to hide,” Banda said.

Reporter from Zodiak, Pililrani Phiri asking President Banda question
Reporter from Zodiak, Pililrani Phiri asking President Banda question

“Mr Pilirani Phiri, I started business when I was 21 years old. Money is not a problem,” said the Malawi leader .

Banda also denied saying that she knew who shot Minister of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo.

“I never said that,” said Banda.

“I am pleased to report that Mphwiyo  has been discharged  from  hospital and I think it will be important for him to tell us what happened,” she said.

After four journalists asked freely and at length, President Banda’s press officer Brian Banda called for an end of the presser as the President was also heading to Mangochi to attend a funeral of Chief Makanjira.

“ I know you have many questions but time has also run out,” pointed out President Banda.

Meanwhile, Media Institute of Southern Africa in Malawi has issued a statement, saying it is greatly disturbed by the manner in which Presidential  news conference was held in the presence of political party cohorts, who created a hostile environment to journalists that attended the event.

“The environment in which the news conference was held was not conducive and friendly for journalists to ask pertinent questions that would benefit Malawians who have been waiting to hear from the President on a number of issues that have happened while she was away,” said Misa in a statement signed by country chairperson, Anthony Kasunda.

Misa Malawi said it was clear to that the presence of the large number of cabinet ministers, party officials and supporters was to intimidate the media as it was apparent that the issue of Capital Hill looting of public funds would dominate the news conference.

Said Kasunda: “The way the President handled the few questions that were allowed also left a lot to be desired as she was interjecting when journalists were asking questions instead of letting them finish the questions. This also gave an opportunity to party supporters to disrupt the flow of questions.

“By cheering and clapping when the President was answering questions, party cadres disturbed the normal flow of information as journalists who were supposed to pay attention were being disturbed”.

Misa Malawi condemns the conduct of party supporters also it is likely to instill fear in journalists.

But government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu was defensive, saying the presser was conducted in appropriate areas.

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