Malawi President Joyce Banda yesterday dressed down a group of seasoned journalists who had an audience with her at Sanjika Palace saying their ‘unprofessional conduct’ even killed president Bingu wa Mutharika.
The journalists were led by Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter Chair Anthony Kasunda and his treasure Thom Khanje also DailyTimes Business Editor, Capital Radio Chief Aloudin Osman, Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL) General Manager Tikhala Chibwana, Nation Publication’s Cheu Mita.
The scribes had sought the president to sign a declaration to repeal bad laws which infringe on journalists’ ability to write freely.
But Joyce Banda instead took the opportunity to air her dismay with journalists saying they aren’t helping her. She through back the papers at the journalists, and told them to find another president to sign the declarations.
It is not known what Joyce Banda meant by saying the journalists are not ‘helping her’ and that they killed Bingu. However, with the current economic crisis in Malawi, the media is awash with bad news for her government. Most journalist have realized that the much talked about Economic Recovery Plan is just mere political rhetoric instituted to sugar coat the crisis which shows no sign of easing but worsening.
The journalists are simply telling it as it is.
It is also obvious that Joyce Banda wants to blackmail the journalists to write nice stories about her government when it is obvious that she is leading a government without a clear vision. Lately, the government has also been involved a series of dubious out of court settlements involving payouts in millions of Kwachas to companies and individuals wronged by the government. Sources say the payouts are benefiting some senior officials in government. All this has been reported in the daily newspapers.
The media has also been reporting on various procurement scandals in the Joyce Banda administration. Several of these scandals involve direct intervention by none other the President herself. It is an open secret that she is benefiting immensely from favoring some companies whose service would otherwise not be engaged by the normal strict government procurement procedures.
By reporting all this, the journalists have become automatic foes of the President who seems to enjoy praises and questionable awards that she has been receiving in the name of ‘steering Malawi from the blink of economic collapse’. It is laughable that she wants to be pat on the back when millions of Malawians are suffering with her free market economic polices that have made life unbearable.
In a democracy, journalism has a fundamental role: give people information that would help them exercise their citizenship and participate in government decisions.
Journalism watches closely the actions of the government to make sure they do their jobs accurately and with honesty. The news presented in mass media will have a direct or indirect influence in democratic processes of society. This can be seen from a community to an international level. To fulfill this essential role, journalism cannot be controlled by the government or manipulated to serve the interests of those in power. Only free and independent journalism is the one truly useful for a democracy. The dressing down of journalists is a lost opportunity for Joyce Banda and an insult on our democracy.-By Patseni Mauka