Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) youth cadets Friday created an intimidating atmosphere for the journalists who attended a press conference by President Peter Mutharika at Kamuzu Palace.
Mutharika was addressing Malawians for the first time after returning from United States of America, where he attended the United Nations General assembly (UNGA).
In previous press briefings by the President, the atmosphere has been rather dignified and not intimidatory due to the fact that DPP followers were not allowed to be present. Only government officials were allowed in such meetings.
However, things were different yesterday when members of the DPP were allowed in the interview room and drummed and whistled and danced as Mutharika walked in and whenever he gave answers that pleased them.
The cadets were smartly dressed in suits. But their notoriety could not be hidden when they felt like venting their anger on the media such that they booed any question that they felt was not good.
The cadets were seated just behind the journalists.
They started the intimidation when Mutharika was commenting on how one media house was reporting about his health. He specifically pointed out Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), which he only identified by its motto, saying it perpetuated lies about his health.
Mutharika, who previously said he stopped reading local newspapers, brought to the press conference a page from The Sunday Times edition of October 16, which has an entry of a column, Tales of Times.
He read a passage from the column which is talking about the death of former president Bingu wa Mutharika.
“In 2012, that is if you believe in divinity as I do- God intervened in our affairs when he decided to pluck Bingu away from us. Not that I find entertainment in death, but Bingu’s departure was necessary. Necessary because that time, everything in Malawi went bad, and it was because of one man….,” reads part of the column.
Mutharika was clearly outraged by these lines and his statement was greeted by anger from the party’s youth, directed towards the media.
They were joined in their jeers by some DPP women who were also in the press conference room.
The President however answered all questions from the journalists, extending his briefing by 45 minutes after the initial 90 minutes that was set elapsed.
However, he did not give a chance to Tereza Ndanga of ZBS to finish asking her questions as he cut her short when he jumped into responding to her question about how badly his communications team handled his overstay in the US.
In his concluding remarks, Mutharika demanded respect from the media.
“I’m ready to work with the media but I need some respect. Time has come for you to start good reporting. We should have mutual respect. We are supposed to have decency and we can work together. Let’s have some respect,” Mutharika said.
When later asked about, the presence of the party supporters, Bright Molande, who is Director of Communication for State Residences, said it was more than a press conference.
“This is HE’s first address to the nation after he left the country for UNGA,” Molande said.
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