Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has been challenged to ensure there is level playing field in the May 21 Tripartite Election by among others press taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to open up the airwaves to all parties during the 60-day official election campaign period.
The opposition are accusing MBC – on both television and its two radio channels- of on covering campaign rallies of President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) while shunning rallies by political parties contesting in the elections, namely UTM Party, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), People’s Party (PP) and United Democratic Front (UDF).
MBC is also yet to start giving airtime for pre-recorded campaign messages as well as 30-minute slots for interviews with each of the eight contesting presidential candidates.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter chairperson Teresa Ndanga, has urged MEC to use its legal mandate to caution MBC once it notes that it was going off track.
“We are also monitoring the situation to ensure that MBC keeps its word. Misa Malawi will be producing periodic reports not only focusing on MBC, but other media outlets as well,” she said in quotes reported by The Nation newspaper.
The paper in its extended coverage of the story, carried an editorial comment in which it reminds MBC and other media outlests that they signed a code of conduct through which they committed to provide ethical, balanced and impartial reporting.
“But for MBC, being a public broadcaster funded bu taxpayers, the expectation of opening the airwaves to all contesting players is imperative,” said the paper.
The paper appealed to MBC to open the airwaves and urged all parties that are yet to submit pre-recorded campaign messages , notably MCP, UTM, UDF and PP that “it is time to submit materials.”
Reads the editorial: “ They say two wrongs do not make a right, hence, it does not make sense to argue that they are reluctant to provide the materials because they have issues with the broadcaster.”
The editorial comment concludes with an appeal to MEC to ensure a level playing field in the race and “bring to book those who flout the code of conduct.”
Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steve Duwa said failure by the public broadcaster to open up would eventually hamper efforts to achieve free, fair and credible elections in the country.
Duwa faulted MBC for not fulfilling its role to offer balanced news to all parties.
MBC boss Aubrey Sumbuleta is onrecord saying s the broadcaster was working with MEC to ensure that all candidates are given an equal platform on MBC radio stations, television channel and online platform to publicise their manifestos for the electorate make informed decisions
Despite being a national broadcaster, MBC has lost much of the audience because its credibility is damaged with bias reporting. Most people tune on to private media houses such as Zodiak and Times both radio and TV.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :