A story that exposed a shady deal between business mogul Abdul Karim Batawarara and Malawi government over a contract to supply uniforms to the Immigration department has been named best entry for the ‘Anti-Corruption Journalist of the Year’ by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi chapter at a gala dinner held at Sunbird Mzuzu Hotel on Saturday in commemoration of this year’s World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).
The journalists—Archibald Kasakula and Rex Chikoko of Nation Publications Limited (NPL)—received praise from the judges for their “courage, attention to detail [especially figures]” which made those that were concerned “fail to refute” the published story.
In their story, the duo investigated how the suppliers—Batawarara’s Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company—arrived at K53.9 billion claim from an initial K9 billion contract even after they had failed to deliver the products.
The story also questioned how the suppliers had pegged a single uniform shirt at about K60 000 and in some cases a belt at K100 000.
The duo went away with a top-of-the-art laptop but executive director for the Centre of the Development of People (CEDEP), Gift Trapence, immediately announced that his organisation would also give the two K500 000 for the “good work.”
Trapence, who is also vice chairperson of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), which has been instrumental in voicing out against the deal and calls to have Batawarara arrested, said such kind of reporting needed to be encouraged.
“As civil society, we feel proud with reporting that exposes rot in our public domain at all levels. The uniform-gate scandal is one of such rot that needs to be corrected and scrapped off once and for all,” said Trapence.
He also called on media owners to revisit packages the offer to journalists so they could not be enticed to bribes.
“We’re proud of journalists for what they are doing in the country; but, I think we should start thinking about their packages and conditions so that they practice freely and do not fall prey into the allure of bribes. The fact is that most of them are not well paid,” said Trapence.
Meanwhile, Karim obtained a court “gagging order” against NPL from publishing any story in its titles- The Nation, Weekend Nation and Nation on Sunday – on the K53 billion claim at the Immigration Department.
The supoplier feels the publication of the stories have been depicting him as “corrupt and fraudulent” and obtained a restriction order stopping further reporting.
In a statement released by government spokesperson Henry Mussa, who is also Minister of Information, made available to Nyasa Times, said the authorities have noted the concerns relating to K53 billion claim as “genuine”, saying authorities are therefore working tirelessly to protect the national interests.
The government spokesman also pointed out that the State is “vehemently opposing and challenging” the said claim in the courts of law.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :