14th February, 2012
The Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) is
disturbed with reports that journalists from state funded Malawi
Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) were barred from covering a function
organized by civil society organisations in Lilongwe today, February 14,
Reports indicate that civil society organisations, led by Human Rights
Consultative Committee (HRCC), organised a news conference to express
their concerns on the arrest of Human Rights Lawyer Ralph Kasambara but
refused to allow reporters from MBC to attend or cover the function.
The development was confirmed to MISA Malawi by one of the organisers of
the news conference who said MBC was barred because of its biased
reporting in favor of government. He said barring the reporters was one
way of advocating for change at the national broadcaster.
MISA Malawi would like to call upon civil society organisations to adopt
constructive strategies in advocating for change rather than being at the
fore in infringing on the Republican Constitution, which clearly provides
for journalists' right to access information.
Much as we agree with civil society organisations on MBC's bias towards
government, we believe Malawians are rational and capable of judging for
themselves whether a media house is biased or not. Barring reporters from
covering a news briefing is retrogressive and unwarranted in any democracy
worth the name.
Civil Society bodies should be in the forefront promoting and defending
constitutional guarantees and not flouting them. Barring some sections of
the media from covering functions could easily be construed as lack of
tolerance and deliberate and strategic to deny Malawians access to
opposing and critical information on our actions and plans. Such actions
could further mean that civil society organizations only want to deal with
media outlets that promote their cause, which is unhealthy and regrettable
in a democracy. Malawians need all sides to an issue to make informed
decisions and true democracy depends on the extent to which leaders
tolerate opposing views.
As we have always stated, MISA Malawi does not condone biased reporting
and neither does it encourage irresponsible journalism and if barring
reporters from covering functions has anything to do with professional
misconduct, we are more than willing to mediate.
We are therefore appealing to civil society leaders to exercise contact
and dialogue with media houses as well as media bodies that represent the
interests of journalists, whenever disagreements arise rather than
proceeding to breach provisions of the Constitution.
MISA Malawi is further appealing to civil society leaders to respect media
freedom and freedom of expression, which includes the right to be accorded
the fullest possible facilities for access to information.
We would also like to appeal to journalists both from public and private
media to remain professional and avoid serving the interests of one
section of society.
CHAIRPERSON, MISA MALAWI