Phalombe DC bans private media from covering govt functions: Misa Malawi reacts
Phalombe district officials have banned some journalists working for privately-owned media organizations in the district from covering government functions taking place there, Nyasa Times has learnt.
One of the banned journalists Chikondi Magalasi of Malawi24, told Nyasa Times that district’s information officer, Samuel Majamanda gathered all the journalists on Friday last week where they were informed about the ban.
“It was through this meeting that he told us that Mr. Phiri had advised him to tell us that we are no longer allowed to attend District Executive Committee meetings, Full Council meetings and any other government meetings,” said Magalasi, adding that he was not aware of the reason why the Commissioner made the decision.
However, Magalasi believes the ban came as a reaction to the revelation about the auditors’ bribing.
According to articles published a few weeks ago, the Phalombe based reporters found out that the district council paid over MK2.5 Million to auditors who were auditing the council last month in order to cover up its cash mess.
A day prior to publication of the articles, Phiri held the reporters in a four-hours long meeting, pleading with them not to publish their articles, and promising that in turn the council would make deliberate initiatives that would benefit the media afterwards.
The reporters turned down the plea.
According to Phiri, he is simply not happy with the way the pressmen are doing their work. He did not elaborate.
Chairperson for the Malawi chapter of the Media Institute for Southern Africa Teresa Ndanga said it was sad that a public officer who is supposed to be accountable to the general public on the use of taxpayers’ money was blocking the flow of information.
“The Constitution of the Republic of Malawi provides for freedom to press on section 36 where it says ‘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 public information’” wrote Ndanga in response to a questionnaire.
The MISA Chairperson also indicated that it would be logical for the DC to lodge complaints with media governing bodies such as MISA Malawi and Media Council of Malawi if he had concerns over the way the reporters conducted their work.
“I need to make it clear that that decision is an infringement on Media rights and I call upon the council to rescind its decision,” said Ndanga.
Meanwhile sources from the accounts department at the district council have confirmed with Nyasa Times that since the publication of the articles the auditors have not been able to release an audit report as per tradition.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :
I find this amazing. How can a DIO summon journalists from private media to tell them they are not supposed to cover the stories. The private media is not answerable to the DIO, so common sense would have dictated that they meet the District Commissioner in person to get first hand information. On the other hand I wish to implore on journalists to be more professional when they cover stories of this nature. Often times they dwell on hearsays without digging deeper to get the facts.
MISA Malawi or Media Council of Malawi, through legal representatives get a mandatory injunction against Phalombe DistrictCouncil restraining it from hiding information meant for public knowledge. Apply also for the discovery of the accounts records which the District Council is unwilling to release. For those well versed in the art of investigative journalism, fish out what was paid to auditors in order to “doctor” the audit report.