Freedom of expression does not give one the right to insult those with whom they disagree, but rather to learn to agree to disagree.
Events in the past months have been quite perturbing. In the past months the country has witnessed how politics of insults have taken centre-stage as the young, old, leaders and followers, hurl insults at each other—all in the name of rooting for their respective political parties and candidates.
It is as if there is a competition which will award a politician who has hurled better and more insults at their opponents and critics. This is quite disappointing and shameful.
Indulging in hurling insults on one another simply shows that politicians lack substance and are incapable of tackling real issues of national importance—which is what many Malawians are itching to hear from them. When Malawians turn their radios and TVs on, they do not do so to listen to who has a better book of profanities but rather, they want to hear how you the aspiring ward councillor, member of Parliament and presidential candidate is going to address the economic and social ills that they are facing.
Politics of insults create panic and fear. Politics of insults scare women away from fully participating in politics. What is more tragic is seeing leaders who claim to be Christians and insist that Malawi is a God-fearing nation, call their opponents all sorts of names and descriptions, some of which promote hate and violence.
The political rallies should be battle grounds for political ideas and not cheap talk and insults.
Both the opposition and the party in government, are guilty of practising politics of insults. With the campaign period getting hotter, there are some politicians who clearly have run out of ideas and have turned to insulting others in their quest to garner support.
Freedom of expression must be used to protect the moral values of society, including the right to enforce the principle of equal rights and respect for people of diverse persuasions or backgrounds. If as a politician you do not agree with what your opponents say, the best way to counter that is to come up with a more convincing argument of why you think your opponents are wrong. This can be done in a constructive and respectful manner and not with insults.
Use the few remaining days before the May 21 elections to dwell on substantive issues your campaign messages and not spend energy insulting and disrespecting each other.
Surely, we want to listen to radio and watch TV with our children, mothers, fathers, grandparents and be able to discuss issues that the politicians have said during campaign without cringing at the insults that politicians are hurling at each other.
For the sake of peace, which is something Malawians guard jealously, politics of insults must have no place in Malawi. Tell the people of Malawi what you will do for them and not how you hate your opponents. n