The Media Information and Communications Committee of Parliament Tuesday took to task Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) for being biased.
The committee invited MBC as one of the stakeholders it is consulting on Communications Bill, which was referred to the committee in the last meeting of Parliament.
The issue of MBC favouring government and the ruling party was also raised when the Bill was tabled in Parliament in March.
MBC Director General Aubrey Sumbuleta, however, defended the public broadcaster.
“The issue of [questioning] MBC’s independence is not starting today. It’s something which management is working on. In the past year, we have tried to do our best to improve. The problem has been the perception people have towards MBC. But we are trying to instil professionalism,” Sumbuleta said.
He added: “We have been trying to accommodate as many voices [on MBC] as possible but sometimes the perception people have does not do us any good. For example, last year we tried to have interviews with different leaders for programmes to be aired on Independence Day. Some leaders of opposition parties we approached refused. We only succeeded in interviewing government officials.”
Director of Information, Bright Molande, who was a member of the delegation stressed that the perception is what is aggravating the problem.
“There is a myth that if government appoints a person, that particular person is not independent. But if the person is appointed by anyone outside government, that par t icular person is independent. I have to say that there is no policy, whatsoever, by government, dictating how MBC should be working,” Molande said.
But Member of Parliament for Karonga Central, Frank Mwenifumbo, accused the MBC members present of painting a wrong picture.
“As long as MBC is under government, as long as the Executive appoints leaders at MBC, it shall never be independent. You cannot cover a rally by [Leader of Opposition] Chakwera, you cannot cover [former president] Dr Joyce Banda. Even if your reporters cover activities involving these two, you will not authorise airing. You work under duress. Don’t lie,” Mwenifumbo said.
Chairperson of the Committee, Samuel Kawale, said they expect the new law to put in place measures that will improve MBC’s performance.
“The whole reason we are here is to help you. We need to have legislation that will help you. The system is not right. It may be because of where we are coming from. All of you are highly-qualified. We need to have legislation that will make you work professionally,” Kawale said.
When the Bill was tabled in the House in March, one of the MPs who raised the issue of Independence was People’s Party (PP) spokesperson on legal affairs, Ralph Mhone.
“Let me say the importance of independence is critical. When I last spoke about the independence of ACB [Anti- Corruption Bureau] in this chamber, I was gagged by MBC Radio 2. I was put off-air mid-way in my speech. We cannot compromise on independence. It is critical,” Mhone said, when contributing to the debate on the matter.
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