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MBC comes under fire

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By Macdonald Thom:

Electoral stakeholders on Friday took turns in criticising Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) on its conduct ahead of this year’s presidential, parliamentary and Local Government elections.

During the National Elections Consultative Forum meeting, some stakeholders expressed concerns over what they described as MBC’s bias towards the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

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The whole debate started after MBC Director General, Aubrey Sumbuleta, made a presentation on how his institution is preparing for the May 21 Tripartite Elections.

In the presentation, he said MBC is prepared to offer an equal opportunity to all candidates in the elections.

“When official campaign period starts, we will record 30-minute programmes with all presidential candidates, based on same questions. The questions will be sent prior to the interviews. We will also offer an opportunity to candidates to bring recorded three-minute messages, which we will also broadcast,” Sumbuleta said.

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But Alliance for Democracy publicity secretary, Khumbo Mwaungulu, said MBC should start airing the special programmes now.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) secretary general, Eisenhower Mkaka, said what MBC presented are just intentions that may not materialise.

“What MBC was giving us was an ideal situation, hypothetical, theoretical and not actually what is happening on the ground. I think they gave people what they expected to hear and not actually what they are practising. We are yet to see if they are going to stick to what they have said during this meeting. Therefore, it will be very difficult for me to say ‘I think they will do or not do that’. MBC cannot be trusted,” Mkaka said.

People’s Party spokesperson, Ackson Kalaile-Banda, said MBC does not air some news items.

“In the long run, you find that some information is put aside. They say, ‘here we don’t broadcast this; we need this piece of information’,” he said.

DPP deputy director of legal affairs, Oscar Taulo, said private media houses also have issues which should be addressed.

“In the presentation by Macra [Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority], we have heard of action that was taken on MBC and Galaxy. Are these the only institutions or Macra did not do its work well? What is Macra doing to private stations which have issues?” Taulo said.

Macra Director General, Godfrey Itaye, said there are procedures that have to be followed when lodging a complaint about a broadcaster.

“People say all sorts of things about MBC. We have presented a procedure which has to be followed when you are offended. For example, when MCP complained, we asked them to go to MBC first but, shockingly, they did not,” Itaye said.

In her report to the stakeholders, Mec Chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah, announced that there would be no official broadcaster in this year’s elections.

“The commission has made a decision that, for 2019 tripartite elections, there shall be no official broadcaster for the elections. The commission has considered that the broadcast industry has undergone a metamorphosis in the past years and the reasons that warranted the issue of official broadcaster no longer exist.

“Stakeholders should note that, during the polling and results management, if they hear announcement of results on a radio station or television by a Mec commissioner or official, then they should take that as an official communication,” she said.

In her report, Ansah also appealed to political leaders to refrain from using language that can incite violence.

She also said the candidates should refrain from using language that is demeaning to people with disability.

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