The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has challenged the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) to be accountable to the citizenry by objectively implementing legal provisions on how it polices the broadcasting industry.
MHRC chairperson the Reverend Patrick Semphere expressed the sentiments after a closed-door meeting between MHRC, Macra and the Ministry of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology on recent public concerns on how Macra is policing private broadcasters on one hand and the public broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) on the other.
He told journalists in Lilongwe that MHRC was interested to hear from Macra on how it is handling MBC’s recent broadcast of vulgar and offensive material against the country’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
Semphere said the commission also wanted to appreciate why Macra on April 26 stopped private television stations—Times and Zodiak Broadcasting Station—from broadcasting live Chilima’s address.
He said: “As a commission, we would like to impress upon Macra to pursue the cardinal values of fairness and transparency across all broadcasters in all areas of your mandate.
“These include the way licence infringement is reprimanded, the enforcement of licence frequency fees, expediting licence renewal for those who have fulfilled the conditions without undue delay and fair enforcement of the current reframing of frequencies.”
Semphere called for fairness from Macra, saying there is growing concern that the institution has not exercised its authority to level the playing field for all media institutions.
Commissioner Baldwin Chiyamwaka said Macra has assured them of professional handling of the media and that MBC will be heard today on the Chilima offensive broadcast.
He said Macra told the commission that MBC has been summoned countless times for hearings before the regulator and that the private broadcasters rush to share Macra summons on social media; hence, the perception that MBC is not reprimanded.
There was no comment from Macra on the issues as raised by the commission. Soon after the offensive broadcasting of the said material, MBC management apologised to the nation and went ahead to suspend the personnel involved in the news bulletin production chain.