Misa Malawi hails Nyasa Times ahead of World Press Freedom Day

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter has hailed Nyasa Times, a popular online news publication, saying Malawians have come to trust it in terms of professionalism, credibility and breaking news.

MISA Malawi Chairperson Anthony Kasunda encouraged Nyasa Times to keep its reputation and not behave as other Malawi based online publications, which he said have become synonymous with unprofessional coverage and falsehoods.

Kasunda, who is also MISA SADC Regional Chairperson, said this in Mzuzu on Saturday during the first in a series of three public debates marking the 2013 World Press Freedom day which fall on May 3, and will be held under the central theme “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media”

The theme for the Mzuzu debate was “Online Safety and Professionalism: Progress and Challenges for Malawi” and was aimed at assessing progress Malawi has made in entrenching a culture of respect and tolerance as far as online expression is concerned as well as examine progress made in ensuring online professionalism.

Kasunda: There is no compromise to professionalism
Kasunda: There is no compromise to professionalism

Panelists were Northern Region Information officer Frank Mukondeseni, the acting deputy Executive Secretary for Malawi National Commission for UNESCO Emmanuel Kondowe,  Thezemu Kamanga, and Pastoral Care Coordinator for St John of God Community Services and Malawi Institute of Journalism Lecturer Nicholas Msowoya.

During the official opening, Kasunda said this year’s theme celebrates the fundamental principles of every democracy, which he said is a free media.

“We cannot talk about democracy without talking about freedom of expression and the press. This is why as MISA we believe in promoting free and independent media to ensure that in the process we manage to entrench a democratic space,” he said.

Kondowe said online media has made tremendous progress saying it had widened communication among various groups.

“If they are threats then it is technological. Because people will need the ability to own and use the kind of equipment needed to work online.  The other threat is that people can say anything,” Kondowe said.

While Msowoya said, online media in Malawi is under threat because there are many non-experts circulating information online as news.

“Expert knowledge must control the profession and not the other way round because we have seen that ethics have been thrown to the wind. Plagiarism is on the rise and offensive and obscene materials are being thrown online,” he said.

For instance, Msowoya said  social media Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter are setting the agenda for the media.

“But how do we authenticate that the person am interacting with on Facebook  is genuine? We need to do more research and corroborate with other sources if we are to avoid accusations of unprofessionalism,” he said.

Msowoya then called for the establishment of the Bloggers Association or Union to regulate their work.

Kamanga agreed with Msowoya saying many untrained people are publishing online.

Mukondeseni said the dissemination of falsehoods and inaccuracies might force government to gag the media.

MISA Chairperson Kasunda said it is difficult to regulate online media.

However, Kondowe said government has a huge responsibility to ensure that the Cyber space is regulated.

“The main threat comes from journalists themselves. They should act professionally and ethically after all it’s their credibility at stake,” he said.

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