Last week Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) summoned Zodiak radio station over the remarks MP and People’s Party third vice-president Kamlepo Kalua made during an interview. Macra was not happy with Kalua’s remarks that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime killed Robert Chasowa [ also ACB’s Issa Njauju] and that DPP wants to shed blood again.
This is not the first time MACRA has summoned a privately-owned radio station. Last June Dziko radio of Chikumbutso Mtumodzi was summoned for a phone-in programme in which callers criticized president Mutharika for rampant corruption in government and rising poverty.
On the face of it, MACRA gives the impression that it is doing its work to enforce the Communication Act. But reading between the lines it is clear that that MACRA is intimidating private radio stations that are critical of the government and DPP officials and their cronies? There is nothing like lacking “journalistic judgement by allowing Kamlepo Kalua to make sensitive remarks without being directed or controlled.”
What constitutes “sensitive remarks”? Is it not common knowledge that DPP operatives including the police had a hand in the killing of the harmless student Robert Chasowa whose case has stalled? Did people not die at the hands of UDF operatives? How many times have DPP officials and ministers attacked or made sensitive remarks about the opposition on MBC but Macra has done nothing about them?
Macrashould not fight DPP battles or settle political scores for DPP.While it has mandate to enforce the Communications Act, it is not itsduty to defend the DPP or their cronies. It has to be impartial in its work and not use the Act selectively. If there is a radio station in Malawi that requires to be taken to task it is the state-controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.
Over the years, it has been used as a toxic propaganda machine for the governing party and their cronies. It has never been professional in its news coverage. It is irritatingly one-sided in favour of government and governing elite who use the public radio like their personal property. It serves parochial interests of a few people. It has shamelessly abdicated its legal responsibility to serve all Malawians regardless of their political beliefs or affiliation as prescribed under Section 87 of the Communications Act.
How many times have ministers and party zealots (whether under UDF, PP or DPP) used state-controlled MBC to attack the opposition? Has MBC given the opposition the right of reply? Has Macra summoned MBC at any one point over the hate speech?
Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Communications is so ineffective that it has equally failed to ensure that Macra and MBC remain apolitical institutions to serve all Malawians.
Private radio stations, like private newspapers, are doing a commendable job in covering divergent views. They are providing a voice to the voiceless. And this should be guarded jealously!