Malawi media urged to respect electoral code of conduct for 2014 tripartite polls

The Malawi Electoral Commission, MEC, media institutions and regulatory bodies in the country Wednesday signed media code of conduct for reporting 2014 to ensure free and fair tripartite elections in 2014 at Cresta Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe

The Media Council of Malawi and Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) called  for the public media institutions to stick to media code of conduct.

The Council’s Vice Chairperson Dr. Tikhala Chibwana said sticking to the code of conduct  wiltl “level the playing field” and called for levelheadedness among all media institutions in the country before, during and after the forth-coming elections so that the masses became well equipped with information.

Chibwana appealed to MEC to equip all media institutions with technical expertise and materials so that the country achieves free and fair elections in 2014.

Nancy Tembo: MEC regards media as strategic partners
Nancy Tembo: MEC regards media as strategic partners

The code of conduct lays out, among other things, role of the media in elections; conditions necessary for media to play an effective role; duty of balance and impartiality; voter education and information; and professional practices.

It also dictates media public accountability; reporting election observers and monitors; campaign rally coverage; reporting results; and result of non-compliance.

MISA Vice Chairperson, Thom Khanje, said his institution had a special project in place to ensure that public broadcasting was indeed public and not partial.

“The project aims at ensuring that public broadcaster such as MBC is answerable to an independent body and not to Ministry of Information,” said Khanje.

He observed that MBC’s bias towards the ruling party was due to the laws which the broadcaster operates under.

“Until we change the laws governing MBC’s operations, bending the public broadcaster’s bias towards the ruling party will be a far-fetched dream,” said Khanje.

MEC Commissioner, Nancy Tembo, who presided over the event,  said the public media’s leaning towards the ruling party in their reporting was a threat to free and fair elections as it does not give other contesting parties a platform to be heard.

“There has been growing concerns from both local and foreign observers that our public media leans toward the ruling party and this is the commission’s observation too,” said Tembo.

She said the new code of conduct was an amendment of the 2008 document following the nature of the 2014 election and recent boom of media institutions in the country.

Tembo said the new document was also in tandem with the regional code of conduct which was introduced in 2012.

“In September 2012, SADC established media code of conduct for the region so it was ideal for us to amend and validate the 2008 document so that it works in harmony with the regional one,” explained Tembo.

She said the commission was striving to make the 2014 tripartite election free, fair and credible.

Tembo appealed to all media institutions to abide by the document and to ensure that voters are well informed on the forth-coming elections.

“Malawi will for the first time hold elections of this nature and as a commission, our strategic partner in this exercise is the media,” said Tembo.

The Commissioner said earlier in the year MEC visited all media institutions to appreciate their various capacities.

“We discovered that there was need for training and continued sharing of information,” said Tembo, adding “In order to achieve fair, free, and credible election results, MEC will ensure that all media institutions are well equipped and their personnel well trained.”

The signing of the new media code of conduct was witnessed by senior representatives of all media institution in the country, political party representatives, civil society representatives; Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority and senior official from Ministry of Information.—(Additional reporting by Kondwani Magombo, Mana)

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