14 June 2018

Malawi: Parliament Fights Malawi Media As Opposition Seeks to Give MBC K1

Parliament on Wednesday turned into a boxing arena and the punching bag as the government and opposition legislators battled over media professionalism and ethics as well perceived poor parliamentary coverage.

Making his contribution on Media, Information and Communications parliamentary committee report, Chitipa south MP Werani Chilenga accused journalists covering the House proceedings of unprofessionalism, unethical and towing political party line when covering parliament.

He gave an example of the issue of the K4 billion the government set aside for development in various constituencies, saying the issue was distorted and blown out of proportion.

"The whole House agreed to have the money for development purposes but some section of the media portrayed as if the money was to be given to individual MPs. It is not surprising that some honourable members started changing tunes after these distorted media reports," he said.

He said this was not the kind of reporting parliament wants, saying the House was a law making arena not a news making arena.

Chilenga then asked the National Assembly to fast track the opening of its own radio and television.

Mzimba Solola MP Jacob Hara suggested all journalists covering parliament should be vetted for their competency.

He gave an example of the state run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) which he said favours the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in its news coverage.

"When we complain of bad journalism at MBC, we are referred to Macra (Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority). When we go to Macra, they send us to MBC. I do not see why Macra fears MBC or why MBC is larger than Macra," he said.

He therefore said he would not vote for any money to go to MBC.

Nkhotakota north east MP Martha Lunji Chanjo said denying MBC money was not a solution to the problem.

She alleged that private owned media houses, Zodiak and Times are also biased towards the opposition and suggested that parliament summons the management team to reprimand them.

But the chairman of the parliamentary Media Committee said the House is interested in MBC because it uses tax-funded money.

"This House passes the budget for MBC, we give them public money so that they cover all parties equally, professionally and ethically," he said.

He said parliament has limits on how to reprimand the private media, saying the owners use personal money and can decide what news to carry in their media outlets

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