The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has urged the media to avoid sensational reporting ahead of the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Speaking during the opening of a meeting for media managers in Lilongwe yesterday, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said the media has a critical role to play in the electoral cycle through dissemination of accurate and balanced information.
She said: “We are engaging media managers because they are gatekeepers who work with reporters. Noting that the forthcoming tripartite elections will be highly contentious, we thought of engaging them throughout the election cycle so that they should be equipped with knowledge and skills.
“Since it is difficult to regulate the social media, people pass false information which can cause a lot of problems in the election cycle. People mask names when reporting information and post sensational information.”
In his remarks, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) chief technical adviser for elections Richard Cox noted that the media is instrumental in the provision of information throughout the elections cycle; hence, the need to share a common understanding with MEC.
He said: “The media has a powerful role to play in the electoral process. We want a common understanding between MEC and the media in terms of the work undertaken to deliver electoral services. We understand that the media is biased all over the world but there should be a key understanding of the work that MEC is doing in the electoral process.”
Commenting on the issue, Nation Publications Limited (NPL) deputy chief executive officer Alfred Ntonga promised that the media house, which was recently awarded the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter Best Media House and Best Online Media House for 2018, would strive to give the public factual and balanced reporting throughout the election cycle.
This, he said, would enable the electorate at the grass roots level to make informed decisions on who they should elect as their leader.
Said Ntonga: “We take our role in ensuring a free, fair and credible election very seriously not only through avoiding sensationalism, but more importantly by disseminating information that empowers people. As NPL, we will always report for the people of Malawi, and we realise that politicians will take advantage of us.
“We are there to empower people with knowledge and information. We are there to take on their issues as it is people who vote on the ground, and if they have issues we also know that they have expectations. When it comes to reporting, throughout the elections cycle, we will reorganise ourselves so that elections are covered as a process.”
In an interview, Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) acting general manager Grey Phiri also acknowledged that there is a high level of sensationalism in some media content as well as on social media.