We have suspended our intention to publish the list of five public institutions that failed us most in 2018 to comment on some breaking news. It is not about that fake terrorism expert on Sabc who made an idiotic allegation connecting Malawians to Al Shabab nor is it about Chiradzulu, the district that produced John Chilembwe, Malawi’s most revered religious leader and political militant, second only to Elliot Kenani Kamwana Chirwa. Why is Chiradzulu probably the poorest district in Malawi? If Chilembwe rose from the dead today, what would we tell him?
On Thursday [last week], local newspapers reported that the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Henry Mtengowaminga Mussa, had challenged the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to open up during the lead to the May 21, 2019 Tripartite Elections.
What we do not know is whether he appealed to, ordered, challenged, or just mentioned that MBC should change. We believe the minister just wasted our precious work time, our browsing time, newspaper reading time, our WhatsApping time, our introspection time, our drinking time, our money-wasting and poverty-making time, and more importantly our gossiping and swearing time.
Take it or leave it. MBC will not change. If it changes at all, alert us and we will end our expedition and close this column pronto.
MBC will not change because the President of Malawi, the Vice-President of Malawi, all ministers, including Henry Mussa himself, and opposition parties do not want MBC to change and stop the political bias. And none of the politicians that governed or misgoverned us in the past had ever wanted MBC to stop the political news bias.
Ngwazi Kamuzu Banda, his ministers, and their governing the MCP did not want MBC to broadcast the multiple voices that define us as federal Malawians.
Ngwazi Bakili Muluzi, his ministers, and their governing UDF enjoyed a politically biased MBC. Ngwazi Bingu wa Mutharika, his ministers and their governing DPP, and Ngwazi Joyce Banda, her ministers, and their unelected governing PP did not want MBC to change.
In fact, if Article 19 is to be believed, it was during Ngwazi Bakili Muluzi’s rule, some say misrule, that MBC perfected the art of disinformation, the act of deliberately distorting facts to symbolically annihilate political opponents’ public image and ruin their chances of winning elections, which Ngwazi Prof Donald Trump of the USA famously calls Fake News. Professionally speaking though, fake news does not exist because news can never be fake or false. If it is fake, it is not news. But fake is synonymous with bias.
MBC will not change and stop the political bias because the clergy, traditional leaders, CSOs, cashgatists, prisoners, ichthyologists, cardiologists, journalists, dramatists, fascists, grave diggers even we, members of the Bottom Up expedition, have not desired to see a changed MBC partly because we know that MBC has negligible influence on choices people make during elections. Otherwise, if MBC really mattered, Ngwazi Kamuzu Banda and Ngwazi Joyce Banda (unrelated) would not have lost the elections in 1994 and 2014 respectively.
If we really want to force change on the MBC, someone should muster enough courage and money to pay lawyers to challenge its performance in court by citing breach of Section 109 (2a) of the Communications Act 2016, which obligates the MBC to work in the public intertest. The law says, MBC shall
s.109. (1d) (d) respect (…) human rights, the rule of law, and the Constitution.
(2 a) function without any political bias and independently of any person or entity; (b) support the democratic process; (c) refrain from broadcasting any matter expressing its opinion or the opinion of the Corporation on current affairs or on matters of public policy: Provided that the Corporation shall not be restrained from making editorial comments; (d) provide balanced coverage of any elections; and (e) operate with regard to the public interest.
The law, and not any minister, has banned MBC from being biased since 1998. What have we done as a country to enforce compliance?