Can Steven Nhlane, as State House press secretary, do journalism in Malawi and the public one favour: Brief and educate President Joyce Banda about the role of the media in a democracy because, to be brutally honest, her misunderstanding and simplification of thought on the matter, whether deliberate or otherwise, is deeply astounding and disturbing.
One basic thing Steve might have to do is to advise the President not to open her mouth before thinking through issues to avoid embarrassing government and forcing the likes of Moses Kunkuyu to scribble press statements just to clean up the mess.
On a serious note, Steve might also wish to inform the President that journalism in Malawi can do without the negative flattery that she heaped on it on Monday to the effect that it usurped God’s power and sent a whole president to his grave.
While the thought that I could be part of a group of people to whom God has sub-contracted His exclusive right to take away life could somehow be exhilarating, I could think twice before playing along for the horror it could cause while I am here on earth.
Yet, the basic facts on the matter are very clear even to the President—the late Bingu wa Mutharika died of cardiac arrest as per the report of the commission of inquiry that she set up.
There can be one reason the President now thinks and says otherwise: She wants the media to sing her propaganda and pamper her ego that she is the best thing that has ever happened to Malawi when reality on the ground suggests otherwise.
She wants the media to merely exist to serve and mobilise her support as well as that of special interest groups aligned to her when it is supposed to be independent and committed to discovering and reporting the truth and not merely reflect the world as she wishes it to be.
The President wants to fix the public discourse and to decide what the general Malawi populace should be allowed to see, read and hear as well as manage public opinion by regular propaganda which is at odds with reality.
Her statement on Monday that she thought the media should be her partner was as stunning as it was wholly excessively dangerous to the survival of democracy in Malawi.
But I got news for her. Her dream partnership cannot happen because the moment it does, then journalism will have lost its right to exist which is to act as a public enlightenment to nourish democracy with the provision of information for quality public discourse and check those who live on the public purse, including the President.
Question is: What sort of partnership did the President think she would have with a watchdog of society other than the fact that that arrangement would have ended in the media being her cheerleader disguised as support for development?
It is not a secret that the President takes herself as a global celebrity and her expectation was that the local media would be drooling in her praise even when people are eating bonya and prices of goods are going up daily as a result of poor government economic policies.
She wanted the media to be silent when she personally and suspiciously intervenes in procurement processes in government departments. She wanted the media to hide the fact that she released her rapist relative from prison while deserving nobodies are languishing or dying in squatter conditions.
I can go on with one example after the other of her excesses until cows come home, but the point is the President wants journalism to sing her propaganda when she knows she has not delivered to the people of Malawi.
Yet, propaganda is to democracy what a bludgeon or machine gun is to dictatorship and if telling the people of Malawi the excesses of the late Bingu wa Mutharika is tantamount to murder, in the President’s world, let it be.
But murder is a capital offence in Malawi and since the President controls the police, why can she not ask them to arrest the journalists who killed Bingu?
This presidential simplicity is shocking and Nhlane’s job has been cut out.