MISA commends Malawi’s public broadcaster MBC for accommodating opposition leaders

Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has commended the country’s public broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), for providing a platform for diverse political views by featuring opposition figures in its recent programming.

Since Malawi switched from one party rule to democratic regime about two decades ago, public broadcaster has been under fire for being a mouthpiece of governing parties as well as promoters of propaganda tool against opposition leaders.

There have been numerous calls from concerned organisations, both local and international, for the national broadcaster to open up but there was no political will from previous regimes as they never heeded the appeals.

But since a few weeks ago, MBC has been featuring members of opposition political parties in its news bulletins and programmes, a move MISA Malawi has described as highly commendable and progressive.

MBC boss Dr Benson Tembo: Encouraging professionalism
MBC boss Dr Benson Tembo: Encouraging professionalism

“MISA Malawi and Malawians in general have been calling for reform and professionalism at MBC for a long time. It has always been clear, however, that there was no political will and the national broadcaster was often used as a mouth piece and propaganda tool for the ruling party.

“MISA Malawi would, therefore, like to commend MBC for taking such a bold move and would like to encourage and appeal to management at the station to continue the good work,” MISA Malawi Chairperson, Anthony Kasunda, said in a media statement.

Soon after assuming office in April last year, President Joyce Banda directed the broadcaster to open up and provide a platform for diverse views and opinions but the move was temporary as the station quickly slid to its “model”.

“We are confident, however, that MBC will not backslide and continue to provide Malawians with credible and reliable information as the country approaches the 2014 General Elections.

“The importance of MBC reform cannot be overemphasized. Radio remains the most reliable and readily available source of information for most Malawians and abusing or underutilizing it can only be to the detriment of our own good as a nation,” said Kasunda.

The chairperson said MISA believes the direction taken by MBC is a realization that it has a duty to Malawians to provide them with balanced and accurate information.
“MBC remains a major source of information especially to people in rural areas and its biased coverage of events and the propaganda it was running was an affront to democracy and people’s right to know to say the least.

“We appeal to all stakeholders to support MBC and hope that those in power will also do the same and ensure that our national broadcaster operates to promote and defend democracy and the people’s right to know,” he said.

According to the Communications Act (1998), among other principles, MBC was established as a public service broadcaster and not state broadcaster as it has been operating over the years.

Section 87 (2) of the Communications Act reads: “MBC shall, in the provision of its broadcasting services—(a) function without any political bias and independently of any person or body of persons; (b) support the democratic process; (d) provide balanced coverage of any elections; and (e) have regard to the public interest.”

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