Malawi's flagship newspaper, the Daily Times, has printed an apology over the photo caption story, which depicted the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) youth who are painting their faces and bodies in party colours and main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) youth in decent berets in revolutionary red.
The publication of the photo caption story titled "Sport the difference between the two groups" caused widespread revulsion on social media with the majority of the comments accusing the publication for practicing partisan politics.
On Thursday, the newspaper in light of the loathings, offered apologies on its front page, under the headline "We apologise."
Editor-In-Chief of Times Group, George Kasakula said the media giant made a terrible mistake for the photographs, saying they violated the company's editorial policy which says "we are an independent non-partisan media group, and not a mouthpiece of any political party or lobby group to be used for campaign."
Kasakula conceded that the photos did not relect their editorial policy hence "apologising to the public."
He said the paper has rigorous gate-keeping process but that there was breakdown which he said the company is investigating which "disciplinary measures will be taken against those responsible for such laxity."
Kasakula said Times Group which also publishes other titles Malawi News and Sunday Times has also Times Television and Times Radio, will move on to give "nothing but independent and non-partisan content".
Meanwhile, a local socio-political commentator has described the publication of the photos as a blessing in disguise in as far as the re-examination of the role of the youths in Malawi politics is concerned.
In an emailed response to Nyasa Times over story a Lilongwe-based social commentator Makhumbo Munthali, who is also the former National Secretary of the Ethics, Peace and Justice Commission (EPJC) of Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), said that while it was a fact that the paper had acted in a partisan and unprofessional manner "the whole saga and its subsequent reactions should be viewed as a blessing in disguise in as far as the conversation on the role of the youth in politics is concerned".
Said Munthali: "I share the concerns expressed by various stakeholders on the unfair coverage of the photo caption. You don't need to be a political analyst to see that such a photo caption does not provide a comprehensive picture on how the two political parties (DPP and MCP) treat or perceive the role of the youths in their party. A plethora of evidence suggests that both DPP and MCP have been culprits of youth exploitation in political participation, that is, if the standard used by Daily Times is anything to go by."
Nonethelses, Munthali said looking at the broader picture the newspaper photo caption and the subsequent public reactions should on the other hand serve as a critical juncture for all Malawians including political parties to reexamine the role of the youths in politics.
"In short, while it is important for us to remain steadfast in condemning the Times Group for such unbalanced story favoring MCP, we should not forget holding the leadership of our various political parties in Malawi accountable on the role of the youths in their parties in readiness of 2019 Tripartite elections ."
Munthali further observed that while the intent of multiparty democracy was to see young people taking active part in Malawi politics, the reality on the ground proves the contrary.
He pointed out that contrary to the aspirations of African Union's Agenda 2063 and its first 10 year implementation plan (2014-2023) and the various national policies promoting youth's participation in politics, it is apparent that young people in Malawi have been reduced to dancers or praise singers during political rallies and in some cases used as vessels of terror against political opponents.
"While some few youths have managed to penetrate in the political parties' hierarchy by taking up challenging positions, this has often been due to their personal initiative rather than the parties deliberate policies, strategies or mechanisms to facilitate their ascendancy to those positions. This is regrettable", said Munthali, who also once served as the National Advocacy Coordinator for Malawi's leading human rights organization Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR).