For immediate release
Monday, 12th March, 2012
The Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) is
disturbed with repeated threats from the ruling Democratic Progressive
Party (DPP) top brass on media outlets deemed to be critical of President
Bingu wa Mutharika’s government policies.
Barely two days after State House issued a statement warning the media and
civil society organizations against ‘insulting’ the country’s leadership,
DPP Director of Youth, Frank Mwenefumbo, has called on all government
departments and the civil service to stop buying, reading and advertising
in newspapers critical of the DPP led government.
Mwenefumbo, who is also DPP Regional Governor for the north, made the call
during a presidential launch of the construction of Zomba-Blantyre road in
the old Capital Zomba, Southern Malawi, on Sunday, March 11.
Taking a direct swipe at one of the country’s main print media outlet,
Nation Publications Limited (NPL), publishers of The Nation, Weekend
Nation, Nation On Sunday and Fuko newspapers, Mwenifumbo said: “newspapers
have been writing bad things about the DPP and our President instead of
reporting on good things. (So) if I see DPP loyalists, be it a (cabinet)
minister or a Chief Executive, reading The Nation, we will suspect them;
you should stop that forthwith…If I see the Nation newspaper in your
offices (of government departments) we will suspect you. Stop buying it.
Stop advertising in it! If you want adverts, you can do that on the
Government issued a similar ban on advertising in Nation Newspapers in
We find the recent order to stop advertising in NPL as well as threats on
journalists in general very strange and retrogressive for Malawi’s nascent
democracy. Attacks on the media and civil society and human rights
defenders in general are attacks on democracy and should not be condoned.
Media outlets are part and parcel of any democratic state worth the name
and have a watch dog role in any such society. Malawians are also rational
and capable of deciding what media outlet to read and listen to. It is sad
and retrogressive that any individual should decide for Malawians which
media outlets to read.
MISA Malawi maintains its position that through numerous broadcast
programmes and published articles on health, agriculture, business,
politics, culture, entertainment, economy, youth development, sports, good
governance and rural development among others, the media in Malawi have
immensely contributed to political stability, unity, development and
economic growth and this validates the fact that the government and the
media have worked as partners and should continue to do so.
We note that government has its preferences when it comes to choosing
which media organizations to advertise with. It is a known fact, however,
that advertising is the life blood of every vibrant private media
institution and we fear that the DPP’s directive will cripple the
operations of such media outlets and our nascent democracy in the process.
We repeat our stand that democracy is about empowering citizens to take
ownership of their own growth and development objectives, harmonizing them
with national aspirations after interacting and engaging with differing
views. This noble activity is guaranteed and protected by the Constitution
of Malawi and is facilitated, on a daily basis, by the media.
His Excellency the State President openly swore to defend the Constitution
and has in the past openly supported media development activities as part
and parcel of his development agenda.
MISA Malawi is, therefore, requesting President Mutharika to personally
distance himself from threats issued by DPP cadres on the media in the
country and the Constitution he swore to defend.
MISA Malawi expects the State President to ensure that his administration
remains the guarantor of media development and press freedom in Malawi as
enshrined in the Malawi Constitution.
As we have indicated in the past, we would like to assure government that
MISA Malawi does not condone biased reporting and neither does it
encourage irresponsible journalism.
We are optimistic that His Excellency the State President and other top
government officials, will take note of our appeal and if there are some
concerns, they can be channeled through relevant media bodies for
mediation. We believe this will help to clear the impression that Malawi
government is taking systematic steps aimed at suffocating the media,
thereby strangling our young democracy in the process.
CHAIRPERSON, MISA MALAWI