President Peter Mutharika has been given critical stories in the local press a day after he returned home from New York, United States of America where he fulfilled a number of engagements, including addressing the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (Unga) and told journalists on arrival to report positive stories about Malawi and not dwell on the negative issues.
A bitingly critical editorial in The Nation newspaper that savaged Mutharika’s return almost 10 days after the Unga event said Mutharika should avoid “opulence and grandeur.”
The editorial comment stems from the from page article which the paper wrote that Mutharika was among the first presidents to arrive in New York for Unga and was the last to return to his country.
The paper noted that Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli did not attend Unga for the second year running, citing financial difficulties in his country – almost same economic turmoil like Malawi.
It also reported that Presidents of South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe left New York for their respective countries earlier than final day of the event.
The paper said in the editorial comment that Malawians who funded the trip of Mutharika and his 19-member delegation have not been told why the President extended his stay in United States (US.)
“We all know that while in US, he and his entrouge were staying in very expensive hotels [ Hilton Midtown Hotel –New York,” reads the comment.
It called on the government to disclose all expenses incurred on President Mutharika’s tour, including those of his entourage at the “annual pilgrimage.”
Reads the comment: “Apart from the length of the President’s stay in New York, how he and his entrouge are accommodated and the allowances they get on such trips, there is the issue of the mode of transport the President uses to and fro – a private plane. When all these are put into the equation, what the taxpayers want to know is how such a trip has benefitted them.”
Mutharika used a chartered jet on departure between Lilongwe and Johannesburg, South Africa for the departure and return trip.
The paper says its known fact that the reason government does not disclose how much the travel bill and cost of the whole trip is because “it is damn expensive.”
But Mutharika said Malawi has also benefited a lot from the UNGA trip saying he attended about 38 meetings with various influential people and investors, saying the country should expect a lot in terms of investment opportunities.
He said all the meetings that were attended were educative and informative as it also created an opportunity for Malawi to showcase some of the projects the nation is investing on.
But the newspaper said if the President wants everybody else to embrace the gospel he preaches about fiscal prudence “he should be the first to walk the talk by avoiding opulence and grandeur.”
In Malawi’s flagship Daily Times newspaper, it rapped Mutharika on his call for positive stories, saying the Malawi leader has become “accustomed” to criticising the media for playing a watchdog role.
“The media only play their role,” the respected Malawi daily newspaper said in an editorial title.
The piece noted that Mutharika wants all praise and not critique.
The paper said President Mutharika call for positive stories was “the same tired refrain that only exposes his congenital aversion to criticism and the media in general.”
It said the Malawi media has done an “excellent job” in reporting positive stories in the areas that the country has done better.
“The media have reported about successes in HIV and Aids fight, safe motherhood, the fight against child marriages and others. The media is not as bad as Mutharika wants the world to believe,” reads the comment.
The paper asserted that President Mutharika should now accept and start living with it that the news organisations role is not to be praise singers when it is evident that a lot of things are done wrongly in the country.
“The media do not fabricate stories about mismanagement of public resources, dwindling education standards, a crippled health system, pathetic road network, cronyism and political violence that have become rampant in this country. We all know these are factual and must be reported as such,” reads the newspaper comment.
The media, declared the paper, will never abdicate their role of being watchdog of society “even if Mutharika barks and howls.”
President Mutharika, a former lawyer elected in 2014 for a five-year term, left the country on September 15, with a 19 member delegation to the annual UN general assembly held from September 19 to 25.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :