Civil society organisations (CSOs) who conducted demonstration on Friday have included in the 10-point petition on the conduct of public broadcaster MBC and demands Malawi President Peter Mutharika to let his government free MBC within 6o days so that opposition political parties and other stakeholders have access to the tax-funded station.
They have asked the opening up of the air waves by the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and let officials work professionally without any intimidation from ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
“MBC is a public broadcaster not DPP or Party Broadcaster. We give you, Your Excellency Sir, 60 days to free MBC from DPP’s capture and to allow it to work independently and professionally as provided by law,” reads the petition.
They have also demanded Malawi Communicatiobs Regulatory Authority (MACRA)’ MBC and Malawi Electoral Commission’s action on rights group’s letter of complaint on MBC’s political biasness and contravention of the law within 60 days.
Governance commentator and Nyasa Times columnist Lowani Mtonga argues that 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, he noted.
Mtonga states that 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 states.
Mtonga said while CSOs have a valid point in asking government to open up MBC to all political players, other practical options need to be explored.
“They have to pressurise MBC to ensure the Communications Act is followed. They need to discuss and present a petition to MBC management to demand answers why the public broadcaster is not opening up to divergent views in line with the constitution and Communications Act. We know government has a problem. But MBC management has a problem too. They operate with reference to what government would want to hear instead of being professional and respecting the law.
“MBC has an obligation under the law to serve everyone. But it uses pro-government agents such as chiefs and individuals to advance government agenda and discredit those with dissenting views. As a result, they fall short of performing to the expected standard because they owe their allegiance to political leaders,”Mtonga argued.
He said another petition should be presented to MPs, especially the Parliamentary Committee on Media and Communications.
“One wonders what this committee does. If members knew their role, they should have summoned MBC management to explain why the public broadcaster continues to be unprofessional. MPs have abandoned their oversight role. If they exercised their oversight role, the issue of MBC unprofessional conduct would long been resolved.
He pointed our that MACRA is equally a failed organisationwhich has abandoned its responsibility to ensure that MBC follows a Code of Ethics as enshrined in the Communications Act.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :