Malawi Pres. Banda says media killed Bingu: Stopped reading newspapers

Malawi President Joyce Banda told a delegation of Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) at Sanjika Palace that she stopped reading newspapers because of the criticism on her administration which she noted some derives from gutter journalism.

However, President Banda hailed the media for the commendable work done in the continued fight against corruption.

The delegation of the media   led by Misa Chair Anthony Kasunda, veteran journalist Al osman, Times Media Group boss Tikhala Chibwana, Nation Publication’s Cheu Mita and Thom Khanjepresented the Table Mountain Declaration which proposes the abolition of insult laws in Africa ahead of the World Press Freedom Day, May 3.

The declaration, made in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2007, calls for the repeal of criminal defamation and ‘insult’ laws across the African continent. It was adopted at the World Newspaper Congress.

President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger became the first sitting Head of State to sign the declaration in November 2011. Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, signed the declaration on July 21 2012.

President Banda;Tells media, you have a friend in me
President Banda;Tells media, you have a friend in me

If the President signs the declaration, she will become the third Head of State on the continent to subscribe to the ideals of pushing forth a free press in the country.

Banda assured the media that she will look into the matter, declaring: “In as far as press freedom is concerned, you have a friend in me.”

But the Malawi leader expressed concern with attacks she is getting from the country’s press, saying they have been “irritating”.

“When I became the president, I thought the media were my partners. But I have serious problems, especially with newspapers,” said the Malawi leader.

“At first I thought Bingu wa Mutharika was wrong. But I have now realized that you have no compassion and you can kill a sitting president. But Bingu tried to fight the media and you killed him.”

With the current economic crisis in Malawi, the media is awash with bad news for her government. Most journalist have realized that the much talked about Economic Recovery Plan is just mere political rhetoric instituted to sugar coat the crisis which shows no sign of easing but worsening.

Lately, the government has also been involved a series of dubious out of court settlements involving payouts in millions of Kwachas to companies and individuals wronged by the government. Sources say the payouts are benefiting some senior officials in government.

The media has also been reporting on various procurement scandals in the Joyce Banda administration. Several of these scandals involve direct intervention by none other the President herself. It is an open secret that she is benefiting immensely from favoring some companies whose service would otherwise not be engaged by the normal strict government procurement procedures.

Banda also said she does not watch MBC TV because of the programme called ‘The road to 2013’ which she said used to castigate her for two years before she became President.

But President Banda said she watched “in passing” MBC TV covering opposition Peter Mutharika at DPP convention, a sign that the public broadcaster was opening up.

Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) regional chairperson Kasunda who is also chairperson of the Misa Malawi Chapter, commended the President for repealing Section 46 of the Penal Code and removing value added tax (VAT) on newspapers when she came into office.

Kasunda also presented to the President the concerns over the delay of pushing the Access to Information Bill and the fact that new television licence holders are complaining about the excise and duty charged on equipment to set up the new stations.

The President assured that she will take up those issues with the relevant ministries.

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