MHRC For Equal Media Access To Political Parties

By James Mwale

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Tuesday engaged Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) and Ministry of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology, urging them to ensure broadcasters adhere to responsibility and moral ethics ahead of the forthcoming fresh presidential election.

After the interface which took place at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe, MHRC Chairperson Rev. Patrick Semphere told journalists that among the topics of discussion, was the importance of non-discriminatory access of all media houses, both public and private, to all political parties.

He added that media regulatory bodies had been urged to impartially regulate all media houses’ content to ensure they do not broadcast or publish hate content which would infringe on the rights of other citizens.

“The media can promote peace but it can also promote conflict through irresponsible reporting and promotion of hate speech.

“It is in this view that we need to address the need for a fair regulatory framework for broadcasters,” he said.

The MHRC Chairperson further said there was a concern raised, of persistent public perception that Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) was biased towards the party that is in the Executive arm of Government and that it does not feature positive news from opposition political parties.

He also said there was another concern that MACRA does not exercise its authority to level the playing field for all media institutions, saying it was more lenient with MBC while being more authoritative and stringent towards private media houses.

MACRA officials were not present to comment during the briefing, and efforts to contact them had been futile when this reporter went to press.

Semphere, however, commended MACRA for summoning the state broadcaster to a disciplinary hearing following material that was broadcast on the evening news of May 11, 2020 whose content provoked public ridicule for allegedly being “extremely offensive and vulgar.” –MANA

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