Nine months to the general elections in Malawi the media is already feeling the heat as media houses accuse each other of bias and complaints from the public and other quarters against the conduct of the media flood the offices of the Media Council of Malawi, writes Sam Makaka.
Joy Radio, belonging to former president, Bakili Muluzi, and state radio, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) have been developing rival programmes to promote the images of their masters and attack those of their masterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s rivals ahead of the May general elections.
Muluzi is hoping to stand again for the presidency after serving in that position for ten years term, while the state broadcasters have been advancing the argument that Muluzi cannot stand again because the constitution allows an individual to serve only once.
In a statement, the self-regulatory Media Council of Malawi (MCM) said its ethics, complaints and disciplinary Committee had investigated a range of complaints.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â These included allegations by MBC that some journalists in other media houses were being influenced by opposition political figures.
The committee, chaired by retired Chief Justice Leonard Unyolo, recommended that the Communications Act which guides state broadcasters should be reviewed. It has also planned a series of meetings which intend to engage Joy Radio, MBC, the Malawi Television (TVM), the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and the Media and Communications Committee of Parliament.
A few months ago the Malawi Electoral Commission invited media houses and stakeholders to a meeting where they formulated rules on how the media should conduct itself prior during and after the elections.
The document signed by almost all media houses in Malawi prohibits media houses from publishing or broadcasting materials which denigrate other politicians, improper material and hate language.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
The meeting empowered the MCM, MACRA and NAMISA to deal with complaints coming as a result of misconduct of media houses during this period of the general elections. In extreme cases where compromise cannot be reached the courts will be the last resort.
Most main media houses in Malawi are either owned by politicians or politicians have huge shares in them, straining their independence.