The Journalist Union of Malawi (JUMA) has insinuated that Malawi President Peter Mutharika may have taken advantage of poor salaries many Malawian journalists receive in the various media houses to attempt to bride them with K50,000 for fair coverage.
Mutharika is on record of dishing out K50, 000 to over 80 journalists he invited for dinner at his Sanjika state house last Tuesday. The money was contained in browns envelopes which state house press officers said they contained president’s plan for the media.
An editor at the Weekend Nation newspapers George Kasakula was the only person who returned the money immediately after suspecting foul play while other senior journalists carried the monies home and later donated to charity organizations.
But all junior journalists spent the money patriotically without asking any questions on the motive.
JUMA secretary Charles Nkula says the Union has taken this development as an opportunity to raise some pertinent matters concerning the upkeep and welfare of journalists.
“Studies have shown that some journalists survive on allowances pocketed at different functions as their employers fail to meet their basic needs. At JUMA, we are aware that some media houses can afford to pay their journalists as low as MK20, 000 [per month] when the cost of living is far above MK100, 000 per month],” says Nkula.
He said media owners fail to appreciate the bulk of intangible resources such intellectual and social capital that journalists contribute to the media market or to the value of a business.
“We understand that due to varying constraints and low capacity, some media houses cannot afford to provide their workers with the necessary resources such as transport, accommodation and upkeep allowances to cover stories outside their operating base hence the compromise to allow news sources to cover these costs on their behalf.”
Nkula says in the interest of professionalism and maintenance of high ethical standards, the Union is strongly appealing to media owners and managers to consider reviewing the working conditions of journalists.
“We also ask them to improve on the welfare of their workers and families if the profession is not to be thrown into disrepute.”