The Media Institute for Southern Africa(MISA) Malawi chapter has expressed concerns over conduct of some Tonse government officials and members towards the media in the country.
In a press statement dated January 1 2021, signed by MISA’s chairperson Teresa Ndanga, which FCM TV online has seen, says in the six months period of the Tonse administration, some Tonse government officials and top members have been intimidating journalists for writing negatives against the government.
Part of the statement reads: “In our ongoing media monitoring project, we have sadly recorded the following media violations: Cyberbullying of Nation Publications Limited (NPL) journalists Suzgo Chitete and Ephraim Munthali following a story by the newspaper on EU’s budget support to Malawi and Munthali’s opinions in his weekly column ‘Cut the Chaff’ which appears in the Weekend Nation. The attackers, who have not hidden the fact that they are supporters of the Tonse Alliance Administration, have cowardly launched their onslaught of the journalists under pseudo Facebook accounts. Some MCP insiders have been writing Chitete to warn him of what was being planned against him for writing articles deemed critical of the administration.
“Some cabinet ministers have also been calling and threatening journalists after publication of stories deemed to be critical of the Tonse Alliance Administration.”
The MISA Chairperson Ndanga also said she is dismayed with the closure of Galaxy radio, which was closed due to failure to remit city taxes to Lilongwe City Council.
According to Ndanga, this was uncalled for saying the Lilongwe City Council could have negotiated with the broadcaster and not resolving in shutting it down.
“The recent closure of privately-owned Galaxy FM by the Lilongwe City Council (LCC) reportedly over unsettled city rates is worrying especially as some defaulters are spared. MISA Malawi does not condone default on city rates, but the best approach was to engage the management of Galaxy FM and resolve the issue through mutual business negotiations,” Ndanga added.
Ndanga has also expressed reservations over prior approval of questions from journalists, during the State House Weekly briefs. Adding that some of the questions which are said to be critical against the Administrations are removed.
She Said: “Prior approval by state house of questions for the weekly press briefings is uncalled for. While this may have been done to allow for preparations by those who would respond, we have reports that questions considered ‘critical’ are removed, thus turning the weekly briefings into public relations functions and not a two-way platform of engagement between the media and the presidency. On the same note, it is worrying that some journalists and media houses have been struggling to access the briefings.”
Ndanga has since urged the Tonse government to correct the wrongs, if the media freedom is to be fully upheld.
She however, applauded the Tonse government for operationalizing the Access to Information(ATI) Law. Which she said it has been dragged for over 17 years.
Meanwhile, the government is yet to respond to the MISA’s claims.