Malawi President Peter Mutharika, who has been under fire from the local media for his prolonged stay in the United States of America after attending this year’s United Nations General Assembly, cancelled his scheduled press conference which was to take place at Kamuzu Palace on Tuesday to brief journalists on his trip.
Mutharika, who on his arrival from the USA on Monday pleaded for positive news about Malawi, had planned to meet the local press Tuesday afternoon, but State House sources disclosed that the press conference had to be cancelled following a series of negative articles about his long stay in the UK that prompted some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials and the President’s communication advising him not to go ahead with the plan.
“We were told soon after his arrival that we should alert state run media such as Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and Malawi News Agency to get prepared for a press conference set for Tuesday, however, Tuesday morning we got instructions again not to go ahead,” said one State House source.
According to the source, some of the issues bothering the DPP and State House is that the media would want to ask the President to explain his prolonged stay in the USA despite promising that he will be returning home soon after the UNGA and the recent stories about the violence that DPP cadres have unleashed on Malawians with the blame being pushed directly to Mutharika.
It has been always a tradition that whenever a President return from the UNGA, there is a press conference where Government and the President brief the nation on what transpired at the conference and other engagements the President had while in the USA.
The press briefings at times are held at the airport soon after arrival or at the State House at least a day after. Last year, despite him being in ill health after he went for medical treatment while in the USA, the President was still forced to hold a press conference at the State House where among several other issues he explained his health condition and why he had to stay long after the UNGA.
Government spokesperson and Minister of Information Nicholas Dausi could not be reached to explain the cancelled press conference and whether the President will call for it while Mutharika’s Press Secretary Ngeme Kalirani could not pick his phone when called Tuesday afternoon and evening.
Mutharika returned home on Monday from New York, where he fulfilled a number of engagements, including addressing the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (Unga). On his arrival at Kamuzu International Airport, the President pleaded with journalists to report positive stories about Malawi and not dwell on the negative issues.
In his brief address, President Mutharika said Malawi has also benefited a lot from the UNGA trip saying he attended about 38 meetings with various influential people and investors.
For instance, Mutharika said Malawi scored the global star on ending early marriages and fighting HIV and Aids after a documentary featuring senior Chief Kachindamoto and others was shown to the world, saying he is excited about how popular Malawi has become globally.
“Out there people see and appreciate our efforts. But it is unfortunate that here at home, we don’t take pride in our achievements but instead dwell on negative publicity. I urge journalists in the country to report positive news and further the welfare of Malawi globally,” said Mutharika.
Mutharika highlighted that it is now up to Malawians to be positive and be able to appreciate what government is doing than just being bent at fault finding and instead of bringing to the limelight what the nation has achieved.
“We should get away of this negative attitude and embrace positive thinking. We need to change and boost our country. Let us speak positive about our nation and be in line with those that see good in our nation,” he said.
He said Malawi is leading on UN Aids and this will continue to project the country on the global scene and allow a lot of investments in the country.
Mutharika said all the meetings that were attended were educative and informative as it also created an opportunity for Malawi to showcase some of the projects the nation is investing on.
President Mutharika, left the country on September 15, with a 19 member delegation to the annual UN general assembly held from September 19 to 25 and while other Heads of State and Governments returned to their respective countries soon after the conference ended, Mutharika who arrived earlier than his colleagues had to stay for another 11 days in the USA.
After his return he faced a battering from the local media for his unexplained long stay in the USA with a biting and critical editorial in The Nation newspaper saying Mutharika should avoid “opulence and grandeur.”
The editorial comment stems from the from page article which the paper wrote that Mutharika was among the first presidents to arrive in New York for UNGA and was the last to return to his country.
The paper noted that Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli did not attend UNGA for the second year running, citing financial difficulties in his country-almost same economic turmoil like Malawi. It also reported that Presidents of South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe left New York for their respective countries earlier than final day of the event.
Malawi’s flagship Daily Times newspaper rapped Mutharika on his call for positive stories, saying the Malawi leader has become “accustomed” to criticizing the media for playing a watchdog role. The piece noted that Mutharika wants all praise and not critique.
The paper said President Mutharika call for positive stories was “the same tired refrain that only exposes his congenital aversion to criticism and the media in general.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :