It is a well-documented fact that the Malawian political story has a funny way of repeating things. No matter how one chooses to look at Malawi politics, the painful truth is that the more things try to change, the more they stay the same. The politicians are the same; the speeches are the same; the platforms are the same.
It is so scaring the way Malawian politicians repeat things. Oftentimes, events, including mistakes, are meticulously and religiously replayed with dangerous accuracy like salmon fish during breeding season. The sad part is that the actors often always fail to see the folly of their indulgence and willingly take up their roles with enormous energy. It has so far been a terrible trajectory.
The latest episode has seen President Arthur Peter Mutharika demonizing and attacking the local media. At a political rally which his DPP addressed on Sunday, July 19, in Ndirande Malabada, Mutharika routed the local media because, according to him, it is fond of reporting rubbish about his government.
Mutharika wondered why the media does not see the good works and policies that his government has implemented since assuming the reins of power. He wondered why the media in Malawi does not see how his ‘cement and Malata subsidy’ has transformed people’s lives within a record period of time.
He wondered why journalists are failing to see the economic transformation (7% annual growth in GDP) that his DPP government has achieved within a year. He wondered why members of the fourth estate are failing to highlight the fact that the DPP under his able and visionary stewardship has not arrested any journalist since assuming power last year.
Of course if Mutharika would have his way, he would want the media to report only the positive things about his government. He would want the media to glorify his government; to sugar-coat even the silly things that his government does sometimes; to paint him as the Messiah and the best thing to have ever happened to Malawians.
He would want the media not to report the total breakdown in security that this country is going through. He would prefer the media to ignore the daily murders that have even sucked in the Police, not as enforcers of law and order, but as accomplices in the lootings and killings.
If given his way, Mutharika would prefer the media to completely ignore the MK92 billion ‘cashgate’ scandal or to present it just as an audit query which his government is working day and night to fix.
He would have wanted his absolute failure to exert control on national matters to be completely swept under the carpet or to be reported as a shrewd management style, which is rare in Africa. Sadly, that is not how the real world works.
President Mutharika must be living in some utopia to contemplate that the media would suddenly sit on its laurels or that the fourth estate would suddenly go the way of Saonda or Kaliati and start clapping hands for everything he does, including mediocrity.
The media collects and processes information and reflects it back to the larger society. It promotes freedom of speech, which is a very important human right, by giving people the voice that Mutharika cannot if allowed to have his way. It is the duty of the media to side with the common people, the vulnerable, by pointing out and highlighting what is wrong in society.
Just like it is in every other industry, there are also bad apples in the media industry, which are there to serve their own ulterior agendas. But this is dealt with through a full self-regulatory framework, which helps the industry to check its own excesses.
There is the Media Council of Malawi or NAMISA where those who feel hurt or aggrieved including the President can go to lodge complaints. There is thus no reason for the whole State President to go on a podium to whine blue murder. It simply does not wash.
When the media reports about the corruption that continues to go unabated within the corridors of power, the President should be the happiest man. It means he will now find it easy to solve the problem because it has been exposed and is halfway solved. He would do better to get to the root cause of the problems than attacking the messenger.
The media is the mirror of society, and if it is writing rubbish about government, the first place to fix is government not the media. It means what the government is producing is garbage. In fact, looking at the people Mutharika was speaking to at Nyambadwe Ground that Sunday, it was clear he was speaking to a crowd whose expectations are yet to be met.
The animation that used to follow Mutharika during the campaign period is long gone, replaced by a burning yearning for the fulfillment of expectations. It is only a matter of time before that yearning turns into anger and that will be bad news, not only for Mutharika but for his DPP as well. Welcome to the real world Mr. President where Likki does not always translate into Lekka.
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“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” –Thomas Jefferson