By Luwani Chendayekha Mhango- Analysts
Freedom of Press is human fundamental human rights and various international treats do recognize its importance in the society because it does expose the rot behind the scenes where a local person cannot see.
Of late the Media which is also known as Fourth State in democratic nations has dwelt much in exposing corruption scams either in government agencies, private sector and at an individual levels. And that is the health of democracy.
At a time when people are facing hard times due to covid-19 negative consequences, soaring prices of essential commodities people are buying goods at fixed prices by the retailers, government has decided to change the route now.
Instead of fighting such unscrupulous traders, it has decided to change the “ship campus” and start fighting journalists in the country for exposing lies and corruption.
In Malawi, our politicians have a tendency of intimidating and threatening media platforms with lawsuits whenever they are being exposed for wrong doing.
They always use the defamation as a tool to charge and discredit media houses and journalists so that they continue to plunder the meager resources for the hardworking Malawians.
In most African counties, journalists are agents or spokesmen of the poor and being an agent for the poor is a crime to many African leaders including Malawi and senior opposition leaders.
Since Malawi became a multiparty democracy, the media in Malawi is championed as oasis for holding those who in authority accountable in SADC countries.
Examples we have are many but the recent one is during Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika administration where the media had the latitude to report and expose his administration.
In fact, if Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika was not democratic, demonstrations that were championed by Lazarus Chakwera under Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), could not have happened at that time.
The Media is there to strengthen democratic governance agencies and encourage the society to freely participate in the fight against corruption and racket in government and anyone who is suspected to have messed up things which were for the benefit of a common man.
It is the media that informs the nation about the developments that the government is doing in the country. So why do you to gag the very same media that helps to propagate information on your behalf?
The media in Malawi has been given full protection under the Constitution:
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
The press SHALL have the right to report and publish freely, within Malawi and abroad, and to be accorded the fullest possible facilities for access to public information.
Much as the press has an obligation to respect people’s rights as well but to gagged through police and court threats is not the ideal phenomenon in a multiparty democracy.
Most automatic regimes have understood that discrediting or suppressing the press using threats helps them to hold on to power which is a huge mistake.
The press which enjoys the fruits of democracy as politicians as well shall continue to broadcast or write independent voice and shall continue promoting good governance which seeks, promoting and protecting the freedom to seek, receive and publish and disseminate information concerning racket and corruption for those who abused, or want to abuse public trust which Malawians gave them on sustained trust.
If government or any politician thinks that independent news media will “adapt their discourse” then that is dream because currently, Malawi is enjoying the fruits of access to information law.
Yes, we have seen some silly “state captured” outlets spreading disinformation of late like the teachers strike and headlines that are insane but for how long will such media platforms continue to cheat?
This is type of journalism that will continue to aiding and abetting a culture of impunity in the country. Shame on such publications.
Calling your servant leader, joke for lying under oath cannot warrant police summons. It is a disgrace of the highest order.
Let us put in this way. If a reporter reminds the President of the MK 6.2 billion, MK 17.5 billion audits, cabinet reshuffle, amongst others, can that really attract the wrath of the President and his police?
Be smart if you don’t want to be censured otherwise tomorrow you shall be exposed again for other nefarious felonies and lies for the public to read.