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MBC blanks Vice President

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As the fall out between President Peter Mutharika and his Vice Saulos Chilima gathers momentum, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has in recent months been drawn into the battle by muting the second citizen.

Coverage of Chilima’s activities has lately been erratic on the State broadcaster.

The Sunday Times gathers that this is a result of an calculated move to wipe Chilima out of the picture about 36 months after the Public Sector Reforms placed him in the spotlight.

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There are reports that senior officials at the country’s public broadcaster, loyal to President Peter Mutharika, are pitted against those perceived to be sympathetic to Chilima.

The situation has left many journalists puzzled and afraid to cover the second citizen since they have had their stories purged from the bulletins.

The climax of the snub happened three weeks ago when Chilima’s visit to flood victims in Salima were not accompanied by full coverage crew (cameraperson and reporter) with the state broadcaster opting to use file footage when it aired the story in its television bulletins.

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The trend repeated itself a few days later when he visited flood victims in Ntandile in Lilongwe.

We have it on authority that this has caused infighting among the top brass at MBC since some of the editors and controllers are questioning the punitive move towards Chilima.

“Covering the VP is becoming a nightmare with each passing day, sometimes you’re not even sure if the story will make it into the bulletin,” said a source at MBC.

This, however, could not be independently verified with authorities at MBC as Director of News and Current Affairs Geoffrey Kazembe referred this paper to spokesperson Thembi Malinki.

“Drop me an email since I’m driving,” said Malinki when contacted but was yet to respond to it by the time we went to press.

Our source further alleged that camerapersons are under express instructions not to focus on the vice president in their shots whenever he attends presidential functions.

During some of such occasions it has been observed that ministers have usually stolen the limelight even in in his presence.

For instance, at a public rally at Masintha Ground in Lilongwe last November Cabinet ministers were paraded to explain to the nation strides made in their respective ministries except Chilima despite him being at the help of the Public Sector Reforms at the time.

However, Minister of Information and Communication Technology and government spokesperson Nicolas Dausi has downplayed the allegations.

He said: “That is not true! People get glory when they create stories of infighting bickering and all sorts of things. MBC is covering the vice president that’s why he was on TV when he accompanied the president to Ntandile few days ago. Or has he complained?” quizzed Dausi.

Commenting on the development, Mzuzu-based social commentator Moses Mkandawire said the alleged events at the state broadcaster are a threat to democracy and development.

He observes that that the office of the vice president is part of the presidency and should be accorded the respect it deserves, adding that it has to be covered fairly by all media houses so that Malawians have an opportunity to assess if it’s playing its roles correctly without interference.

“Placing a blackout on the vice president is extremely sad. That is a senior office in the land which plays a critical role to the management, development and even security of this country. As such, it deserves full coverage especially by the state broadcaster which runs on taxpayers’ money,” explained Mkandawire.

The office of the Vice- President could not comment on the story as our calls could not be picked after several attempts.

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