Malawi observes Press Freedom Day amid proliferation of  fake news, Cadets threat

Malawi journalists on Wedneday May 3 joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Press FreedomDay amid concerns of uncertain future because of the proliferation of fake news, bombarding and confusing its audience and  rising violence by ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadets. The main activities of World Press Day would be commemorated on Saturday in Lilongwe.

The message to the authorities is crystal clear: Journalists need to operate in a free environment –

With the traditional news platforms, particularly print, facing certain demise, that future is even bleaker in the absence of a business model that can provide the financial support for media outlets to survive and thrive. The old model, where media operated largely by selling advertisement space and charging subscription fees, is clearly outmoded on the digital platform.

All media outlets sooner or later will have to fully migrate to the digital world, but no one has figured out a business model that could guarantee their ability to operate freely and independently from any political and business interest.

However, the day comes at a time DPP cadets are wearing an ugly face beating up and harassing critics of President Peter Mutharika and his goverment and there are fears they might turn to journlists to gag and silence them.

The day also comes amid rising concerns in the media that press conferences by the President continue to be patronised by DPP cadres who clap hands and bring in an intimidating atmosphere.

President Mutharika has said he would continue inviting party cadres during press conferences.

The government is also accused of using state agencies, like the Malawi Revenue Authority to close down or harass media houses deemed to be critical of President Mutharika and his government.

Apart from social media messages, there are no major activities going on until Saturday when there will be debates and other activities.

The Saturday Press Freedom Day commemoration will reach a climax during a hotly contested elections pitting Zodiak’s director of News Tereza Ndanga and media consultant Frank Phiri.

The elections have been put forward by six months because, according to the outgoing chair, Thom Khanje, Namisa will not have funds to bring the media practitioners together for the election.

The outgoing executive team of Namisa has been applauded for pushing Access to Information bill to become law.

Accoring to journlaims expert, Marguerite Afra Sapiie, the public, now exposed to all kinds of unfiltered information on the internet, including hoaxes, fake news and propaganda, need the service of journalism, the traditional kind, more than ever.

“Someone must continue to do the job of gathering and sifting through the tons of information, verifying its accuracy and packaging it in such a way that explains rather than confuses the public, and presenting it in ethical ways,” Sapiie argues.

“That’s essentially the good old journalism, now presented on a new platform, the internet, with all its advantages.

“The hoaxes and fake news, and finding a viable business model, are challenges that journalists have to deal with. But they should never lose sight of the very reason why they came to this profession in the first place: To serve the public’s need for credible and reliable information.”

Sappie urges professional  journalists never to abandon the public and betray the trust given to them. In this internet age, they must keep nurturing this trust and continue to build their credibility.

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