Blantyre — The Malawi journalists have been challenged to consider covering 'small parties' in their news stories ahead of the May 20 tripartite elections.
"There is death of small parties in your coverage. In fact, there is no attention at all to them only sometimes (PPM or Umodzi party) what is happening?" questioned Professor Edrinnie Kayambazinthu of Chancellor College, after she presented the first findings report of tripartite elections Media Monitoring project in Blantyre on Friday.
However some journalists attending the press conference dismissed this observation, saying they have covered all parties including those 'small parties'.
The professor said the monitoring was done on news items and not feature stories or programmes and the data analysis was done on a larger scale which is why the results are only showing the said bigger parties, which means the media is still not reporting much on them.
Chairperson for the National Media Institute of Southern Africa (NAMISA), Anthony Kasunda said the media should give equal coverage to all political parties in line with the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) media code of conduct.
"These findings will be shared with all stakeholders and we will discuss with media houses wherever necessary," he said.
Kasunda revealed that some media houses seem to be biased towards a certain political party because of ownership of their media house, a thing which seems to be a major problem at the moment.
The monitoring, which was done from March 22 to April 02, 2014 indicates that all monitored media houses comprising Daily Times, Sunday Times, Malawi News, Nation, Nation on Sunday, Weekend Nation, Times television, MBC radio 1 and Tv, Galaxy fm, Joy radio, Matindi fm, Zodiak and Star fm had at least given coverage to People's Party, United Democratic Front, Malawi Congress Party and Democratic Progressive Party in the said period.
The findings however indicate that PP got most coverage with the state broadcaster leading in its pro news and the others in negative and positive news.
The monitoring was also done on social media, Facebook (my Malawi my views, Malawi Breaking News) and web news online publications. It was also noted that the small parties were not there.
There are twelve presidential aspirants namely Joyce Banda (PP), Atupele Muluzi (UDF), Lazarus Chakwera (MCP), George Nnensa (Tisintha Alliance), Kamuzu Chibambo (Petra), Professor John Chisi (Umodzi), Abusa Helen Singh (United Independence Party), Professor Peter Mutharika (DPP), Friday Jumbe (New Labour Party), James Nyondo (National Salvation Front), Mark Katsonga (People's Progressive Movement) and Davis Katsonga (Chipani cha Fuko)
The monitoring project is still on and the next findings will be made public on April 30, 2014. The project, which is run by MISA-Malawi, Chancol, MIJ and Polytechnic is funded by USAID and DFID.