Sour relationship between the Malawi Police Service and the Malawi media has prompted the two to start meeting and mend fences in the country.
The police have accused the media of lack of restraint in other issues it covers and capitalising on the mistakes the police commit to generate stories that tarnish their image.
On the other hand the media has been complaining that the police have been abusing its powers by arresting journalists for doing their job as well as holding on to some information.
Malawi’s Deputy Commissioner of Police for the North Nelson Bophani said the police can achieve professionalism if the media in the country partners them in promoting creation of a safe and secure Malawi.
“However this could only be achieved if the media refrain from condemning the wrongs that the police commit while paying a blind eye to their victories,” he said during one of the training between the police and media practitioners organised by the National Media Council of Southern Africa (NAMISA).
“A cordial understanding and cooperation between the media and the police is of immense mutual benefit and it is of great advantage to the public which both of us in our respective professions are geared to serve,” explained Bophani.
Quoting a renowned UK police official Sir Robert Peel, who said police is a thankless job in which where one has succeeded the public still seeks to identify the wrongs Bophani, on the other hand commended the Malawi media for at least determined to change this negative attitude of the public against their police service.
He said the police’s noble role is to provide for the protection of public safety and the rights of all persons in Malawi according to the prescriptions of the constitution and any other law.
“In so doing the police should always be aware that the Malawi Constitution bestows to individuals various freedoms and rights; access to information inclusive which the police is professionally required to respect,” he observed.
Bophani added that it is against this background that the Malawi Police Service introduced the public relations department at the advent of democratization of Malawi.
In 2005 the police decentralized its public relations functions to all the regions and stations.
A media and public relations counsel for Info-consult Horace Nyaka however advised the police to draw a communication plan as well as a media relations plan in order to achieve a cordial relationship with the media.
NAMISA National Governing Council member Sara Munthali said a favorable police-media relationship is critical to the production of stories and reports that present positive images of the police service.
“Police authorities have to ensure that the image of the whole police is not unnecessarily tarnished by mistakes of individual officers who sometimes get excited and operate outside their mandate,” said Munthali.
Bophani however appealed to the media to exercise fairness and restraint in its reporting.
“Restraint is important because learned people have observed that the pen that a journalist carries is more dangerous than a gun in the hands of a well-trained police officer,” he said.