Macra warns broadcasters against inciting violence ahead of Malawi polls

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has urged broadcasters that will be covering live political rallies to refrain from fuelling violence by ensuring that abusive expressions and obscene language by politicians or their supporters are taken off air.

The regulator further says broadcasters should always ensure that they are complying with the conditions of their broadcasting licence, the provisions of the Communications Act and the Code of Conduct for broadcasters on elections coverage.

Macra said in statement that broadcasters should adhere to media ethics by balancing political views or opinions in their news bulletins.

“Broadcasters should refrain from defamatory, derogatory, inflammatory and abusive language or any other expressions that are likely to incite violence from political parties, politicians and their political supporters.

Nsaliwa: Macra boss
Nsaliwa: Macra boss

“This is clearly stipulated in Schedule 3 of the Communications Act and Fifth Schedule of broadcasting licences. Failure to abide to by this will be regarded as a violation of the Act and licence conditions and the Authority will take drastic measures to penalise such broadcasters,” reads the statement in part.

The statement further advises broadcaster wishing to conduct live programming on political issues such as phone-in talk shows to install delay machines in their studios.

“The Authority would like therefore like to emphasise that it shall not condone the absence of delay machines as an excuse for non-compliance,” says Macra.

Macra’s calls  come barely few days after British High Commissioner Michael Nevin asked government not interfere with  state broadcaster, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) as the country heads towards the May 20 Tripartite polls.

Nevin said journalists, editors and senior managers at MBC are professional and they need to be left alone to do their job professionally.

“That is not. only a democratic principle but it makes commercial sense because if MBC concentrate on announcing on one-sided issues, they will lose listenership for the radio and viewership for the TV,” said Nevin.

The Joyce Banda administration opened up MBC to opposition parties last year, but that did not last long as government has now taken total control of the radio and television, according to the British High Commissioner.

Meanwhile, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) says there is nothing it cannot do to force the state broadcaster to open up.

“We can only force them once the campaign period officially starts and that is on 17 March,” said MEC spokesperson, Sangwani Mwafulirwa.

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