The absence of self-regulation concept in the Malawi media is said to be undermining the media industry in the country where editorial freedom is compromised while state interference is a common feature.
Media Council of Malawi (MCM) Executive Director Baldwin Chiyamwaka, over the weekend, said once the Malawi Media Code of Ethics and Complaints and Arbitration Procedures, which they are currently drafting, is put in place, Malawi media could be able avoid mediocrity through self regulation.
MCM, which was resuscitated in February 2007, is a desperate effort by Malawi media to have a self-regulating institution that promotes a vibrant media, which is not only professional but accountable to the public as well.
“We want the Malawi media to maintain and promote the status of journalism as profession; and the status of journalism can not be achieved without self- regulation concept,” said Chiyamwaka in the northern city of Mzuzu during a countrywide consultative meeting with journalists on the matter.
Since independence in 1964, the Malawi media was gagged due to the dictatorial rule that was only ended in 1993 with a referendum that ushered in a multi-party democratic system of governance.
With the system in place, different instruments including one on freedom of expression were put in place and in turn, countless publications and radio station emerged through out the country.
As media operations unfolded, it was clear that there was a need to create a self-regulation institution and therefore Media Council of Malawi was formed. Unfortunately, even before rolling-out its duties and programmes, the body collapsed and Malawi had been operating without it, until now.
Media practitioners in Mzuzu bemoaned that a lot of pretenders and impersonators have besieged the fraternity and therefore the resuscitation of the organization would help clean the media industry.
“We have been a laughing stock in the eyes of our media colleagues in bordering countries because here in Malawi every Jim and Jack would just wake up and start saying he or she is a journalist,” lamented Nyika Media Club publicity secretary Angellah Mkandawire.
She said with the coming in of the MCM, they hope Malawi has to attain an integrity that befits any national media industry.
Another eminent media practitioner, Emily Mkamanga who is a columnist for Weekend Nation observed that due to lack of the council Malawian journalists were so pathetic.
“Every time you want to interact with or when organization need the services of these journalists you would always find that they were so needy; they would ask for transport and how much allowances institutions are going to give them,” she observed.
In some instances, she said impersonating journalists have engaged into brawls with events organizers because they have not been given ‘brown envelopes.’
Director of the Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) Dr. Peter Mitunda also bemoaned the quality of the media output which he said was disappointing.
“We are encouraging even those practicing journalists to always aim at advancing their qualification standing by pursuing further studies,” he said.
The other challenge as seen in the eyes of the Dean of Media Studies at the University of Malawi Gray Mang’anda is that ever since multiparty dispensation, Malawi has been littered with mediocre media institutions operating at all angles.
MCM Executive Director Chiyamwaka says once the bodies goes into full swing, and allow the self-regulating concept flourish in the country media, there will be preservation of editorial freedom, minimization of state interference, promotion of media quality, and the public’s ability to access their media.
Apart from overseeing the drafting of the Malawi Media Code of Ethics and Complaints and Arbitration Procedures, the Council is also developing an accreditation policy, which allows those media practitioners with press cards to operate in Malawi.