Kasungu South-East member of Parliament (MP) Khumbize Kandodo-Chiponda (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) has raised concern in parliament that the State broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) continues to use traditional leaders and the clergy to demonise the opposition and is running a hate campaign.
Rising on point of concerns of public importance under Standing Order 69, Chiponda said MBC is giving black out of the news or reports from any opposition parties on its radios and television.
She said MBC is a public broadcaster and funded through taxes from all Malawians including from opposition.
“The only news which gets aired on MBC from the opposition it’s either negative or very damaging,” Chiponda said.
The parliamentarian also expressed concerned that Democratic Progressive Party-led government was using MBC—television and radio—to vilify those holding dissenting views.
“It is very disheartening that even we are in a multiparty dispensation, MBC is still being used as a tool to castigate and demonize the opposition parties as well as Public Affairs Committee (PAC),” said Chiponda.
She said it is “very unfortunate” that MBC is parading traditional leaders as well as the clergy to “misinform” the nation about the opposition parties as well as opposition leaders.
The MP also raised concern on propaganda programmes which are aired such as Chindunji.
She noted that in the program they “badmouth” opposition party leaders as well as opposition parties.
“Even the reporters have become like district governors of the ruling party,” said Chiponda.
She also pointed out that Leader of Opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera response to President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) was abruptly cut off during the Parliament programme on MBC-TV.
“This is very unfortunate because the response was covering issues of national importance which Malawian needed to hear and would have been beneficial to them,” he said.
Chiponda continued: “Mr Speaker, Sir, MBC was established to disseminate, inform and educate Malawians concerning development of the country but it is failing to do that.
“Mr Speaker, Sir, denying Malawians access to information it is a violation of our Constitution. It is very important that this House safeguards our democracy, which we did not come on silver platter. Some gallant and fearless Malawians, especially from the North really paid heavily for us to have the democracy. It is indeed very important that we safeguard this democracy, especially with the conduct of our public broadcaster, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).”
Standing on a point of order MP for Blantyre City South, Allan Ngumuya (DPP) said it was not right for Chiponda to complain about “the negativity” on the MBC, because private owned Times Television and Radio, “castigate” government.
Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya ruled Ngumuya “ completely out of order” saying “ two wrongs do not make a right.”
Commenting on the concerns by Chiponda, Minister of Information and Communication Technology Nicholous Dausi said
Dausi said his ministry cannot tke part in editorial decision by MBC and that the State broadcaster works in line with its editorial policy.
He said a free media is an important catalyst for entrenching good governance and democracy.
“We need a free media to check the Executive, the Legislature (Parliament) and the Judiciary. We need a free media to check political parties and the civil society. The media shall be left alone to remain a mirror to our society and provide oversight for the people of Malawi. To quote the Mr Speaker on 6th May, this year. He said and I quote: ‘fight the media at your own peril.’
“I am aware, Mr Speaker, Sir, that the democratic dispensation has brought an enormous challenge on the media, to be seen to serve everyone in his or her own interest.Let us all at all cost remain neutral then we will be able to appreciate the role of MBC in national building, but if we are to take our political inclination then we will be making a big, big mistake,” said Dausi.
Dausi said threats of considering to withdraw funds for MBC on account that it does not favourably cover the opposition is “democratically unfortunate.”
“ Mr Speaker, Sir, I wish to implore the august House to desist from any attempt to stifle any news media and let alone MBC by sentiments of funds withdrawal for this is against the fundamental freedoms of the expression. Like all other media houses, MBC may not be successfully fulfilling its mandate, but this is not deliberate or out of ill will,” he said.
Dausi said MBC aspires to a standard of objectivity, “but like any other media house news is inevitably filtered through the biases and sensibilities of individuals and enterprises for which the nation must be served, whether in the views, segments and shades of opinion which may decline that the news is sensational, superficial, intrusive or inaccurate. “
However, Salima North-West MP Jessie Kabwila (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) said it was “grossly out of order” for Dausi to be excusing himrself, not giving any solutions to correct the wrong.
Kabwila accused Dausi of covering up biased programming.
“When we see a politicisation of institutions, and when we see leaders who are supposed to be representing the people being used by a party, we expected to hear you and I think it’s out of order for you to dwell on actually admitting what is going on,” Kabwila said.
She added: “We cannot correct what we as a nation are not even accepting is going wrong. Honourable Minister we expected to hear you outline the steps you are going to take to correct the situation. We expected to look at institutionalisation of this politicisation. Instead what we are seeing is you are actually glorifying a miscarriage of justice, a dereliction of duty in a democratic state. I think you saw this happening in the academic freedom saga. We saw it in the treason case “
In 2007, the opposition successfully defunded MBC and then Television Malawi by giving it a nominal K1 allocation for the financial year.
At the time, the opposition legislators also claimed that MBC and TVM were propaganda tools of the government being used to discredit the opposition through programmes on the radio such as Mizwanya and Makiyolobasi which were discontinued .Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :