Thursday, October 10, 2013
Concerns on Sanjika Palace Presidential News Conference
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter is greatly disturbed by the manner in which President Joyce Banda’s news conference was held at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre on Wednesday on her arrival from New York, the United States of America.
The environment in which the news conference was held was not conducive and friendly for journalists to ask pertinent questions that would benefit Malawians who have been waiting to hear from the President on a number of issues that have happened while she was away.
It was clear to us that the presence of the large number of cabinet ministers, party officials and supporters was to intimidate the media as it was apparent that the issue of Capital Hill looting of public funds would dominate the news conference.
The way the President handled the few questions that were allowed also left a lot to be desired as she was interjecting when journalists were asking questions instead of letting them finish the questions. This also gave an opportunity to party supporters to disrupt the flow of questions.
By cheering and clapping when the President was answering questions, party cadres disturbed the normal flow of information as journalists who were supposed to pay attention were being disturbed.
The conduct of party supporters also instills fear in journalists as our memories are still fresh when media practitioners who ask questions they deem irrelevant or disrespectful to the Head of State are roughed up.
Unfortunately, this is happening at a time when we thought the days of “Press Rallies” is over.
In a nutshell, the news conference at Sanjika Palace fell short of meeting the standards of a normal news conference. We believe the President lost an opportunity to answer pertinent questions which could be beneficial to Malawians who have waited anxiously to hear from her on how she intends to deal with the rampant stealing going on in government.
MISA Malawi appreciates Her Excellency’s efforts to grant the media in Malawi the opportunity to seek information. We recall that she has said several times that the media in Malawi was free to ask her any questions when the opportunity arises.
However, in spite of Her Excellency’s assurance of media freedom in Malawi, journalists continue to face various challenges such as intimidation from members of the public, especially from party members, as evidenced by the events at Sanjika Palace.
We also appeal to the President to appreciate that the media ask questions on behalf of Malawians and she should resist the temptation to personalise the questions.
MISA Malawi is hopeful that Her Excellency will consider our appeal and ensure that media freedom and freedom of expression as clearly provided for in the Constitution under Section 36 are fully defended and promoted.
MISA Malawi CHAIRPERSON