Mutharika govt asked to reform in 2012

Experts in various fields are asking government authorities to be positive with any advice and criticism from what it considers its critics if they are to make 2012 a better year than 2011.

The advice came from Chairperson of the National Media Institute for Southern Africa Namisa, Anthony Kasunda, a political scientist at the Catholic University Vincent Kondowe and chairperson for the Muslim Forum for Democracy Sheikh Kawinga during a ‘Contemporary Issues’ program aired Saturday on Radio Islam.

The panelists on the program which was hosted by Amadu Rashid Mapila were looking back at the issues that happened in 2011 and suggest ways how the challenges would be avoided in 2012.

Kasunda: We want a better Malawi

Media harrassment

Kasunda said 2011 was one of the most challenging years in the lives of journalists in the country.

He said besides the deaths of journalists due to natural causes, there have also been many cases of intimidation on media practitioners. He cited the harassment and beating up of journalists in the course of their duties.

“For example journalists were beaten up and harassed during the July 20 demonstrations some of them seriously butchered by the police for just covering the demonstrations,” he said.

Kasunda said another sad incident was the arrest of the Montfort Media journalist Ernest Mahwayo who was detained for taking the picture of Ndata House in Thyolo which belongs to president Bingu wa Mutharika.

Police sources said Mahwayo was arrested for taking the picture without permission.

“Although journalists are supposed to seek permission, the president’s house should not be something that one would require special permission after all it was not the first time for house to be pictured”

Kasunda also wondered why Malawian journalists were denied having access to the president and his property while those from other countries faced no restrictions.

“For example Brian Banda (of capital radio) has been refused to have an interview with president Mutharika for his Capital Straight Talk program on several occasions but a BBC journalist was allowed to interview the president”.

He said the amended of section 46 and also the passing of ‘injunctions bill’ was another disturbing development which the media had to struggle with in 2011.

“We are happy that government had bowed down to pressure [from the local media, civil society and international rights organizations] to have these laws scrutinized.

He however said despite all the challenges [so many to mention] the journalists faced in 2011 the media will continue playing its watchdog role on the operations of the government which largely rely on taxpayers’ money.

Kasunda concluded that he hopes that 2012 will be led by God unlike 2011 which [president Mutharika] said was being led by Satan.

Pastral letters

On his part, Sheikh Kawinga said the challenges which religious leaders were facing in 2011 is that the government was regarding them as its enemies and their advice to  government authorities was treated as criticisms.

“Whatever the case the message from the clergy are meant to advise not criticize so it was unfortunate that we were regarded as critics of government”, he said.

He said unless the government changes, it should expect more advise from the clergy in form of pastoral letters and the like.

Mixed fortunes

The political scientist Kondowe described 2011 as “the year of mixed fortunes”.

He said although some people may see that democracy was at stake in the year, he felt that to the fact that Malawians were able to hold protests against undemocratic tendencies by the government, this was itself a testimony that democracy was being exercised to the fullest.

“Holding protests means that democracy is at work and also challenging the passing of laws that would infringe on people rights also indicated that Malawians were exercised their democratic right of expression”, he said.

However Kondowe said some of the problems that Malawians have been facing were because of the government’s failure to accommodate the views of its critics.

He therefore asked Mutharika administration to be a listening government in 2012 and make sure to mend its broken relationship with donor partners a development which he said had brought about many economic problems the country is facing.

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