MBC brags to be the largest broadcaster in the country, but its content is criticised as largely biased towards the ruling party. In this interview, our Staff Reporter JOHN CHIRWA catches up with the Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Nicholas Dausi to appreciate if he has any magic wand to open the airwaves to opposition parties in line with the country’s multiparty politics.
You visited your ministry’s regional offices and the CCAP Livingstonia Synod’s Voice of Livingstonia in Mzuzu. What is your impression of the two media institutions?
I visited my ministry’s offices for the North to appreciate the challenges we have at the regional level. We have been briefed on what we should do as government. I also had a chance of visiting Voice of Livingstonia, an ecclesiastical radio station. Its role is to make sure that it has complemeted the synod in the preaching and dissemination of the word of God in the field of health, religion, education, morality, agriculture and common good of the people. So, government and the church work as good partners. In any case, we are all serving the same people. And they have told us some challenges which we will together sit down to make sure how best we can promote the development of Voice of Livingstonia as we also look on how best to address challenges at the ministry’s regional offices. Otherwise, it has been an eye-opener as I went through some induction.
You experienced a power outage as you toured the institutions. What do you make of this setback which is also haunting the broadcasting sector?
It is important that the power went off while I was there. It seems that we have challenges in electricity outages. And we must make sure that such challenges are addressed. We have discussed with Energy Company of Malawi [Egenco] and Electricity Corporation of Malawi [Escom] at the ministry level that the intermittent power cuts are costing a lot of gadgets. But as government, we appreciate such problems and we will make sure that by and large they are addressed. It’s not a one-day solution. It will take some time. But we want to assure the nation that government will address the question of power cuts that is prevailing in some parts of the country.
With the challenges you have noticed, how do you describe journalism in the North?
I think there are some challenges, but the journalists are innovative and resilience. The two media institutions have a crop of well dedicated journalists.
The Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) is still refusing to open up the airwaves for the opposition parties. What are you doing to free up the State-funded station?
I think that statement has political undertones. It demeans what sort of subject the opposition leader would want to portray. For example, one cannot come to an ecclesiastical radio station like Voice of Livingstonia and start talking something that is not within the confines of theological concepts. The same applies to MBC. It’s a juicy question, though. But if they have programmes for the common good of the people surely, they are going to be heard. I may not have agreed with what you say, but I will defend
Livingstonia Synod has been very critical of government. What motivated you to visit Voice of Livingstonia?
It’s true, people think that the synod hates APM [President Peter Mutharika], but that’s not the case. And that is why I am here to clear that misconception. Sentimental attitudes, allegations, speculations and criticisms sometimes depend on the understanding of that person and in what context the judgement is being portrayed.
Are you sure?
In my view, Livingstonia Synod has nothing against the government. It plays the prophetic role and the government under Mutharika will appreciate that the church has the role to play as a voice of national conscious. The fact that government and the church can be friendly does not mean the church cannot criticise government. Even the media has a role as a watchdog. So, that does not mean any antagonism. The diversity of our ideas should always be a source of strength rather than a source of confrontation.