A high-powered Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) team yesterday met the board of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to discuss the public broadcaster’s conduct which most stakeholders, especially opposition parties, have complained of recently, Weekend Nation has established.
Both MEC and MBC confirmed the meeting took place at the commission’s offices in Blantyre in the morning.
MEC chairperson Maxon Mbendera led the commission’s team which comprised several commissioners while the MBC team was composed of the broadcaster’s board chairperson Evance Namanja, other board members and director general Benson Tembo.
MBC, which is run on taxpayers money, has been widely accused of bias in the manner it covers President Joyce Banda and members of her governing People’s Party (PP), sidelining the opposition political parties when it is legally required to provide unbiased coverage to all parties during the electoral campaign season.
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said the meeting “went on well”.
Said Mwafulirwa: “We were reflecting on MBC’s conduct during the campaign period. A resolution has been made and it will be communicated to the public in due course.”
The MEC spokesperson said the electoral body also reminded MBC about the country’s laws such as the Constitution and the Communications Act, within which it must operate.
The Communications Act and the broadcasting licence that the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) issued to MBC require the public broadcaster to provide equal coverage to all the political parties during the campaign period, but this has not been the case.
Section 87 (2a) of the Communications Act states: “MBC shall, in the provision of its broadcasting services, function without any political bias and independently of any person or body of persons…(d)provide balanced coverage of any elections and (e) have regard to the public interest.”
MBC board chairperson confirmed attending the meeting but refused to say anything.
Said Namanja: “Whatever the Malawi Electoral Commission is going to say is what transpired, talk to them, musandipale mkamwa.”
But one of the delegates to the meeting, who opted for anonymity, said apart from reminding MBC about its legal mandate, the electoral body “censured MBC for its obvious biasness towards the governing PP at the expense of opposition political parties.”
The source said MBC’s board committed itself to improve its coverage of political parties, adding some members on the MBC side claimed that the public broadcaster was already covering opposition political parties.
Just like all other presidents in the past, President Banda’s political campaigns enjoy MBC’s live coverage and repeats in the evenings. This is not the case with opposition parties whose rallies get little or no coverage at all.
News bulletins on MBC Radio One and Two and MBC-TV are also dominated by news concerning President Banda and members of her PP.
Main opposition political parties DPP, UDF and MCP complained last week about MBC’s conduct, especially during the campaign period. DPP’s spokesperson Nicholas Dausi, UDF’s Ken Ndanga and MCP’s Jessie Kabwila said their parties have on several occasions been inviting MBC to their political rallies but they do not turn up even when they are offered transport.
The opposition political parties are on record to have said in situations where MBC crews make it to their rallies, the news items gathered are not featured.
Last week, the CCAP General Assembly also condemned MBC’s conduct and urged government and the public broadcaster to open up to the opposition.
Other civil society organisations; namely, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter and the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn), have on several occasions also called on MBC to open up to all political parties. n