During his recent meeting with owners and chief executives of private media houses, President Peter Mutharika expressed his disappointment about negative reporting by journalists. He said he was not happy about how some journalists write bad things about the country and in the process portraying a negative picture to the outside world that would scare investors.
Naturally, the President detests negative reports because they portray a failed government and by extension, that he is a failed leader. What the President should know is that it is easy for journalists to write fake positive reports to camouflage problems and please government. Is this what he wants? If so, what benefit can people derive from that? In case the President has forgotten, the whole idea behind achieving democracy in Malawi was/is to promote transparency, which comes with reporting as it is. Therefore sugar-coating problems to cover up government’s failure is not part of this.
No sensible person can intentionally write or talk negatively about their country. The negative side of the story comes about because the reporters want to give a true picture. The President should just take the reports as whistle blowers for him to take appropriate action. Even the would-be investors can prepare accordingly after knowing what situation to expect. For example, with the current long hours of electricity blackouts, any serious investor must come to Malawi ready with an alternative source of power. Failing which they will just use Malawi as a stepping stone to other African countries which have more reliable power.
Most Malawians know better that it had to take some courageous journalists to expose the systematic loosing of government resources known as Cashgate. This was taking place silently as leaders watched and some are alleged to have benefitted from it too. Reporting about Cashgate should not be blamed on journalists although it has shown the country as one of the most corrupt in Africa.
Currently, Malawi is facing acute food shortages. This is undeniable and yet the President and his Cabinet ministers say people will not die of hunger because there is enough maize. This makes no sense when the reality is that most selling points have no maize and where there is maize it is erratically available and rationed to 10 kilogrammes after one has slept at the selling point for days. If the truth is told about the food situation, who knows, some well-wishers might come along with help!
Instead of blaming journalists, the President should blame some of his advisers for not doing their jobs properly. They are supposed to be his eyes and ears so as to advise him on time so that he can be rectifying problems before they get out of hand.
There is no point having advisers who are simply hangers or who just specialise in refuting this and that story pertaining to the Presidency. They must master communication skills and strategies to help him better.
The President should know better that problems in Malawi are too numerous. No amount of cover up can avoid the outside world to know about the gleam picture and the suffering going on in this country. In fact, some of the negative reports about the country come from visiting international journalists. Let the government sort out the mess, instead of complaining about negative reporting by our journalists who are just fulfilling their duty of being voice of the voiceless masses across the country. n