Local leaders in Karonga have urged Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka not to blame the media for messing up the country’s emergent extractive industry, saying official secrecy is actually the sector’s worst enemy.
The leaders were reacting to the remarks the minister made at a training workshop in Liwonde where he accused journalists of scaring away investors by publishing negative stories on issues they scarcely understand.
In an interview, Group Village Head (GVH) Kayerekera said a critical press is the only hope for people surrounding Kayerekera Uranium Mine and MalCoal Coal Mine since government does not seem to care about the wellbeing and aspirations of the citizens it is supposed to safeguard.
“I completely disagree with the minister. The major problem facing our mines is secrecy over government dealings with investors. As a result, mining companies have become so powerful that they don’t respect Malawians surrounding the mines. Fortunately, the media has not relented in telling our stories, even those that government officials do not want to the world to hear,” said Kayerekera.
Concurring, GVH Mesiya said Msaka’s remarks reflect a widespread misconception among government officials detached from the harsh realities facing locals.
According to the traditional leaders, government will do well by engaging locals on issues raised in the media instead of wasting time and energy bashing journalists.
The feelings were echoed by chairperson of Karonga District Council, councillor Patrick Kishombe, who termed Msaka’s statements”undemocratic”, “a threat to press freedom” and “a step towards gagging Malawians striving for transparency and accountability in the mining sector”.