Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter has challenged the Tonse Alliance government to be tolerant to critical voices and also not turn State House Weekly Briefings into public relations functions and described as uncalled for prior approval by State House of questions from the journalists.
According to Misa Malawi, government should be providing Malawians with information for transparency and accountability and champion media freedom.
The media watchdog said prior approval by State House of questions for the weekly briefings is uncalled for.
“While this may have been done to allow for preparations by those who would respond, we have reports that questions considered ‘critical’ are removed, thus turning the weekly briefings into public relations functions and not a two-way platform of engagement between the media and the presidency. On the same note, it is worrying that some journalists and media houses have been struggling to access the briefings,” Misa said.
In a statement signed by its chairperson Teresa Ndanga and titled “Gains and losses for the Media Freedom, Access to Information under the Tonse Adminstartion”, Misa, among others, applauds government for operationalizining Access to Information (ATI) law after 17 years of advocacy work, opening up State House and introducing the weekly press briefings.
“But while we celebrate these milestones, MISA Malawi is concerned that the administration and its supporters have, in this very short time, taken actions that are aimed at reducing media space and freedoms,” reads the statement in part.
Misa Malawi catalogues media violations under the Chakwera rule.
It noted that there is cyberbullying of Nation Publications Limited (NPL) journalists Suzgo Chitete and its managing editor Ephraim Munthali following a story by the newspaper on EU’s budget support to Malawi and Munthali’s opinions in his weekly column ‘Cut the Chaff’ which appears in the Weekend Nation newspaper.
“The attackers, who have not hidden the fact that they are supporters of the Tonse Alliance Administration, have cowardly launched their onslaught of the journalists under pseudo Facebook accounts,” said Misa.
The media watchdog said some Malawi Congress Party (MCP) insiders have been writing Chitete to warn him of what was being planned against him for writing articles deemed critical of the Chakwera administration.
“Some cabinet ministers have also been calling and threatening journalists after publication of stories deemed to be critical of the Tonse Alliance Administration,” Misa said.
Of course journalists at Nation’s rival company, Daily Times are safe as the publication is pro-MCP.
The organisation also stated that the recent closure of privately-owned Galaxy FM by the Lilongwe City Council (LCC) reportedly over unsettled city rates is worrying especially as some defaulters are spared.
“MISA Malawi does not condone default on city rates, but the best approach was to engage the management of Galaxy FM and resolve the issue through mutual business negotiations.
Ndanga therefore calls on the Tonse Alliance Administration to correct the wrongs, stating that people gave them the mandate to rule the country on trust that they would deliver on its promises, including being more tolerant to the critical voices, empowering citizens with information with which they can use to hold power to account and championing media freedom.
“2021 grants the Tonse Administration another chance to demonstrate that the campaign rhetoric is to be translated to demonstrable action.”
The institute also urge the leadership to thrive to “inspire co-existence amongst people with different opinions” so that supporters of the administration do not wield power to victimize those presumed to be without that same power.
As part of Christmas and New Year celebrations for this year, the Malawi Leader has pardoned 787 prisoners including, well behaved and some who were in for pardonable offences.
Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :