President Peter Mutharika has denied that he ordered the closure of media giant Times Group through the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), saying he does not interfere with the work of the revenue collectors.
Mutharika was speaking on State-controlled Malaiw Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
He, however, accused the Chief Executive Officer of the Group, Leonard Chikadya, of ordering journalists to write bad things about the President and his government after what he claimed are frustrations following the government decision to drop him as chairman of a parastatal.
However, Nyasa Times has established that Chikadya is one of the rich people in Malawi with a string of businesses ranging from filling stations to farms.
Chikadya is also the chairman of Ecobank, a pan African bank and sits on a dozen boards of the private sector.
As CEO, Chikadya does not interfere with editorial content of the giant and oldest Media Group in Malawi.
Mutharika’s critics say Mutharika and his administration target Times Group because of its fearless tackle of corruption in government which led to the exposure of former minister of agriculture George Chaponda as a suspect in the procurement of maize from Zambia.
State-funded Malawi Human rights Commission (MHRC)in its report which was presented to President Mutharika condemened punitive action taken on some media houses such as Times Media Group.
In particular, the report cites the recent closure by MRA of Times Media Group and fining of Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) as politically-motivated persecution of the media while these bodies appear “seemingly executing their rightful roles.”
Reads part of the report: “The Constitution provides that the press shall have the right to report and publish freely, within Malawi and abroad and to be accorded the fullest possible facilities for access to information. Contrary to this provision, the media in Malawi has come under constant attacks, especially from the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] officials and top government officials through public statements against specific media houses which are deemed to be critical of government and the DPP.
“The commission is concerned with the selective conduct that has been demonstrated by some of the public regulatory bodies such as Macra [Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority] and MRA, who, while seemingly executing their rightful roles, have been seen to be targeting media institutions that have been publicly labelled to be critical of the government.”
It adds: “The recent closure by MRA of Times Group is one glaring example of deep concern, especially as it comes not long after the media house has been publishing stories about alleged corruption in the buying of maize by Admarc from Zambia. The members of the general public have questioned why the actions by MRA and Macra have only targeted Times Group and not the rest of the media houses.”
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter chairperson Thom Khanje said the MHRC assessment on the media landscape reflects the body’s own position, particularly on the issue of Times Media Group and ZBSFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :