– My fellow Commissioners
– The Chief Elections
Officer, Mr Willie Kalonga
– Ms Thandie Nkovole,
Coordinator of the Course
– Mr Wellington Katantha,
The Lead Facilitator and other
Facilitators
– Distinguished Participants
– Ladies and Gentlemen
I should start by saying that
am delighted to be here and
offer a few
remarks before the start of
this workshop. This is the first
training that
the Commission is organizing
for the media as part of
capacity building
ahead of the Tripartite
Elections in 2014.
The media are a crucial partner
in elections and as Malawi
Electoral
Commission we are eager to see
to it that our partners are
discharging
their roles in a professional and
excellent manner and that any
competency
gaps should be addressed. That
is why we have lined up a
number of training
workshops aiming at equipping
our stakeholders with
knowledge and skills.
Two weeks ago, we had a two-
week Train the Facilitator
Training (TTF)
workshop at this very same
place where we invited
participants from the
civil society organizations to
train them so that they can also
train
others competently using adult
learning techniques.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there
are several media training
workshops which the
Commission has lined up just
targeting the media but the
one we are having
today is unique from the
others. This training is following
a Building
Resources in Democracy,
Governance and Elections
(BRIDGE) curriculum.
BRIDGE is an internationally
reputed project and an
authority in elections
curriculum. What it means is
that the material you will learn
from this
workshop is the same that is
being learnt in all other
countries where this
module has been tackled. Our
facilitators are going to explain
to you the
background of BRIDGE and
you will agree with me it is a
rich curriculum.
The certificate that you will
get at the end of the training
is
internationally recognized and
that is why I urge you to
attend all the
sessions. Fulltime attendance is
one of the conditions for one to
be
awarded a certificate.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to
talk about the responsibility of
the media
in ensuring that we have free,
fair and credible elections.
Because the
media reaches out to a
multitude of audience within a
short time, you have
a critical role of bringing
electoral information to the
public. You need
to do this in a manner that does
not disadvantage any
contestant.
Otherwise, if the media do not
offer a level playing field for
all
contestants, this approach can
easily undermine all the
efforts by the
Malawi Electoral Commission
and all stakeholders to have
free, fair and
credible elections. You would,
therefore, be doing a disfavor
to the
Malawian populace. As the
media you also have a
responsibility of building
a well informed electorate that
is motivated and interested to
participate
in elections.
As we are in elections period,
may I also appeal to you to
exercise reason
and rationale in your reporting.
Elections are an emotive
exercise because
of what is at stake and no one
goes into an election expecting
to lose
although the fact still stands
out that there will always be
only one
winner in an election. You should
be cautious that the material
you
broadcast or publish does not
perpetrate hostility, violence,
aggression,
hatred, tribalism, unrest,
conflict or anything that falls
in this class.
Examples abound world over
where media, without exercising
caution in their
reportage have fueled electoral
disputes resulting in civil
unrests and
loss of life. The Rwandan
genocide always stands out as a
classical
example. One of the radio
presenters in Rwanda, Georges
Henri Yvon Joseph
Ruggiu, was sentenced to 12
years by the International
Criminal Tribunal
for inciting violence. And
recently, during the previous
elections in Kenya, the
media had a portion of their
blame for the aftermath
violence that erupted
. We would not want such
scenarios for Malawi and that is
why we are
conducting trainings like these
ones that will enable you report
effectively about elections.
I should also urge you to be
cautious on reporting opinion
polls. We
usually have pollsters surfacing
during elections some of whom
their
credentials are very
questionable and always come
up with questionable poll
statistics. We would urge you to
question such characters
before
publicizing their results. Some
of the opinions that are
published, have
potential impact of
discouraging the electorate
from participating in
electoral activities and
perpetuating voter apathy.
Always ask them to
disclose how they carried out
their opinion polls, their sample
size, who
commissioned the opinion poll
and when it was done. Few
critical questions
can unearth information that
can help you establish whether
an opinion poll
was bogus or genuine.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as
Malawi Electoral Commission we
will continue to
remain a friend of the media.
We will always give you
information so that
you write better and informed
articles about elections. Apart
from
training, we are also planning
for the review of the media
code of conduct,
which acts as a guide and
reference book your practice as
far as election
reporting is concerned. This
review will be done in a
consultative process
whereby all media houses will
participate. We will hold a
consultative
workshop where all the media
houses in the country will
attend.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the
Malawi Electoral Commission has
taken a cycle
approach to elections
management, that is we are no
longer treating
elections as an event that takes
place once every five years but
as a cycle
of five years. I also invite you
to adopt the same cycle
approach to your
reporting about elections. It is
common to see many journalists
writing
about elections, radios come up
with special programes and
newspapers
coming up with special
supplements. All these
disappear after polling and
results announcement. With the
electoral cycle approach, there
will be many
activities that will be happening
in between the ballot that we
will need
you to publicise for our and the
benefit of the Malawian public.
People still need to be informed
about electoral issues; those
who attain
voting age in between elections
need to be educated about
their right to
vote and in all this we need the
media. Your sustained reporting
about
elections even after elections
can greatly help counter voter
apathy and
maintain the interest of the
electorate in election issues.
That aside, you
also have a responsibility on
checking on elected officers to
ensure that
they are delivering what they
promised the electorate during
the campaign
period.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I will not
resume my seat without talking
about the
new media. Facebook, twitter,
blogs and other platforms have
become
effective and cost effective
tools for communication. With
the convergence
of the media, we have already
seen newspapers and radio
stations setting up
facebook pages. This just shows
the influence that the social
media
platforms are gaining. I have
also noted that some journalists
have their
own facebook and blogs where
they post their material to
share with the
public. I should urge you to still
apply your journalistic ethics
and
standards when using social
media.
The media code of conduct is
not suspended just because the
material is
being distributed through new
media where we currently don’t
have a
legislation as a nation. Those
with interactive platforms
where readers can
post comments ought to
exercise care and responsibility
that the comments
being posted are palatable and
that they could run in their
papers or
radio. If newspapers edit
letters to the editor why should
you not exercise
the same with comments from
readers for their online
publications? Without
curtailing freedom of
expression, the media have a
responsibility to ensure
that there is sanity in the
comments and feedback from
readers that appears
on the online publications.
Lastly distinguished Ladies and
Gentlemen, I would like to
thank the
European Union through the
Democratic Governance
Programme (DGP) for
proving the financial support
towards this course. Let me
express our
gratitude to the EU DGP for
the countless unconditional
support it gives to
the Commission. The
preparatory phase of this
election period has largely
been successful due to the
support from the EU DGP.
It is now my hounor and
privilege to declare this
workshop opened. I wish
you fruitful time and stay at
this place.
Thank you very much
May God bless you all
May God Bless Our Nation

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