JB stretches hand to Malawi private media, included on foreign trip

Malawi’s President Joyce Banda has decide that her entourage on foreign presidential engagements should now be including members of the private media to enable them service their own audience.

President Banda has taken the unprecedented decision to deliver on her commitment of ensuring that the media in Malawi should be an integral partner in the development of the country.

For a start, the Malawi leader has included Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) to join state run MBC and Malawi News Agency as the official media from Malawi to cover the TICAD V conference in the Japanese city of Yokohama which she is attending.

Confirming the President’s open hand to the private media, presidential communications aide Tusekele Mwanyongo said Zodiak have since assigned their William Kumwembe to be the first private journalist to enjoy the gesture from the President to the private media.

President Banda being interviewed by Malawi journalists: Extending hand to private media
President Banda being interviewed by Malawi journalists: Extending hand to private media

“I can confirm that Mr. Kumwembe is indeed here in Japan on recommendation from Zodiak,” said Mwanyongo from Yokohama, some two-hour drive from the Japanese Capital of Tokyo.

President Banda’s decision breaks the long-held tradition of only the state media joining and covering a Malawi Head of State on foreign trips.

“The President is of the considered view that all media houses, resources permitting, should be considered. She takes the belief that promotion of media freedom is incomplete when the press’s right to information dissemination with regard to foreign presidential engagements is restricted only to the state-run media,” Mwanyongo explained to Nyasa Times.

Zodiak is a leading private radio station with the largest coverage in Malawi. Official sources have also confided to Nyasa Times that an invitation has been extended to unnamed private radio station to join the presidential entourage when she will be attending the G8 Summit in UK and ILO Summit in Geneva in June.

Mwanyongo declined to comment on this.

“I can only discuss what is on the table. And what is on the table now is that it is Zodiak that is on the presidential entourage,” said Mwanyongo.

Since assuming office, President Joyce Banda has demonstrated that she is a friend of the media.

For instance, on return from foreign trips, she has encouraged journalists to ask “any burning questions”

She is also the first President in the history of Malawi to be on a live phone-in programme. Besides she also gave a lengthy interview to a local young journalist Elita Nkalo on the World Women International Day.

President Banda’s administration has since repealed Section 46 of the Penal Code which empowered the Minister of Information to close media house and it has truly liberalized the issuance of radio and TV licenses based on the quality of their application and not on political considerations.

These changes have contributed to Malawi being the country which made the biggest leap in 2013 World Press Index on press freedom, moving from position 146 in 2012 to position 75 in 2013.

In the line of duty: ZBS Kumwembe in Yokohama, Japan
In the line of duty: ZBS Kumwembe in Yokohama, Japan

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