The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has said public broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has been summoned to a hearing in a period of seven days to hear its side on the controversy of airing obscene content to disparage the country’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
But despite MBC being widely condemned by media professionals and commentators alike, Macra in its statement on Tuesday did not cencure the taxpayer-funded broadcaster.
Instead, the regulator appealed to “all broadcasters” to observe the Broadcasting Code of Conduct under the Communications Act.
“MACRA would like to assure the general public that it has commenced action against MBC in line with the Communications Act and its Regulations and has, therefore, given MBC a statutory notice of seven (7) days to make representations on the preliminary findings of breach as stipulated under regulation 32(3) (e) of the Communications (Telecommunications and Broadcasting Licensing) Regulations, 2016,” reads the statement.
MBC aired the offensive content in its 7pm Chichewa television news bulletin on Monday evening. In the report in question, MBC used a screenshot from its Facebook page and displayed comments on television purportedly to demonstrate that the public was against Chilima, who is now UTM Party president and fell out with President Peter Mutharika and the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in June 2018.
Some of the comments from the broadcaster’s purported social media page contained swear and vulgar words in vernacular.
MBC board chairperson the Reverend Daniel Gunya has since conceded that what happened was unprofessional and unethical.
Media Council of Malawi (MCM) chairperson Wiseman Chijere Chirwa has said Macra should discipline MBC management, saying “anything less than that would be unacceptable.”
In press quotes, former MBC employee Jolly Ntaba, who is now head of Journalism and Media Studies Department at the Polytechnic—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said MBC has failed in its duty as a public broadcaster.
While a veteran media trainer Levi Zeleza Manda said: “This is disgusting, immoral, irresponsible, unforgivable, intolerable and outright silly.”
Meanwhile, some civil society organisations (CSOs), including Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), Youth and Society (YAS) and Church and Society of the CCAP Livingstonia Synod, through lawyer George Kadzipatike, have written Macra to suspend broadcasting of MBC by Friday, failing which they will seek legal redress.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :