17 January 2018

Malawi Media Challenges Mutharika Over Attacks - President Told to 'Stop Living in an Illusory World'

Malawi mainstream media has condemned President Peter Mutharika's conduct for attempting to intimidate journalists as unacceptable and dangerous to democracy.

Mutharika has been making a barrage of criticism against the local media and repeated his attacks on Monday at this year's John Chilembwe Day commemoration at providence Industrial Mission (PIM) in Chiradzulu when he said the media is "busy trashing this country."

Mutharika said worldwide , Malawi is rated number 3 and in Africa as number 1 as a country to visit in 2018 but local media do not cover such stories.

"You will not find that in our local media because they are busy trashing this country. By doing that, they think they are hurting me. They are making a mistake. What they do not know is that they are destroying their own country. This kind of behaviour must change. We need to transform our mindset," he said.

Mutharika also expressed displeasure with the media on its reports on what he thinks is exaggeration of the corruption situation in the country, saying the journalists have been peddling lies in their reports that there are seven cabinet ministers involved in the K236 billion Cashgate scandal.

"There has been mention of seven cabinet ministers. This is a total lie; a fabrication of a certain malicious, vicious, and an irresponsible editor. The Anti- Corruption Bureau just announced last week that there are no cabinet ministers in the said case. Instead of informing the public, this paper is misinforming the country. We must love our country," he said.

Mutharika said without mentioning the name of the editor and the newspaper.

Malawi's flagship newspaper, The Daily Times, led the criticism of Mutharika attacks to the objective media. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chapter has also added its voice.

In its leader comment, the Daily Times noted that the four years that Mutharika has been President of Malawi, one thing he has done consistently is to blame the media for anything that comes to his mind.

The paper said Mutharika should stop "living in an illusory world" where he thinks the media will clap hands at little efforts to fight corruption or keep mum in the face of rampant corruption as is the case now.

"The President knows that even within his Cabinet there is booming corruption. Mutharika must not look far; just a glance at his lieutenants would be enough to convince him that corruption is not as minimal as he wants the world to believe.

"People who are close to power have overnight gotten rich, yet there is nothing they are doing other than stealing from the public purse," reads the editorial comment.

It said the media that Mutharika is working so hard to vilify have played a watchdog role and have stood for Malawians to expose and fight corruption

The paper said instead of "venting his anger" at the media, Mutharika should engage in a serious war against corruption.

"Whether he likes it or not, Mutharika must accept that the fight against corruption has weakened on his watch more than on any of the presidents that this country has had," reads the editorial in part.

The newspaper said the media will not relent in exposing the corruption that is flourishing under Mutharika's watch.

Meanwhile, Misa-Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga has said the core role of journalists is not praising government for doing its job, saying if there any complaint on acts of unprofessionalism in the media the government should formally lodged with her body.

"If the President's view is based on evidence of publication of false stories by journalists, we urge government to share those concerns formally to Misa. We do not support unprofessional reporting and therefore, we will address government's concerns once we have a formal complaint," Ndanga said in quoted reported by The Nation.

Ndanga schooled Mutharika that journalists are not praise singers or not there for PR stunts, saying their role is to be watchdog to society unearthing wrongs so that authorities know where to focus their energies.

The Malawi media managers are also on record to have expressed concern with what they called "the highly belligerent attitude" that the Mutharika government has taken against the independent media "to silence it from telling Malawians the truth."

Bright Molande the Director of Communications at State House said the media " cannot bully the Head of State with propaganda and false reports."


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