This week a directive for the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to open up, came from an unlikely person-Minister of Information and Communication Technology-Henry Mussa.
I am saying this statement came from an unlikely person because as Minister of Information and as a Cabinet minister and as senior member of the ruling party, Mussa did not have to wait to visit the institution to make that statement. The day he was appointed the political head of the ministry he should right away have reached for his mobile phone tell MBC director general and the that he had a message for him. In that same breath-Mussa should have summoned the entire MBC management to a round table and make the order that he wants MBC to open up.
He should have told everybody that makes both political and professional decisions at MBC to open up and not fear doing what is right. Indeed to open up to all political parties and opposition figures so that Malawians who listen to MBC radio stations and watch MBC Television station should be well informed about their country on political as well as other issues so that they make good and informed choices about their country.
Mussa did not have to take two months or more to make the change that he desires to take place at MBC. Such change is long overdue. As a Cabinet minister, Mussa did not also have to wait for the day he would head the Ministry of Information to push through such an agenda.
As a national broadcaster with the best equipment and probably also with a concentration of well trained staff, MBC should have been using such a competitive edge to its advantage and lead the way in the media industry.
But sadly MBC is abused left, right and centre by the ruling party. The taxpayer funded institution has become more and more synonymous with a party mouth piece churning out nothing but an anti-opposition narrative day in and day out.
But maybe Mussa had a good reason for not making that directive earlier. Maybe he has a good intention for MBC. So I will patiently wait to see if he meant what he told MBC on Wednesday.
For now, all I want to tell Mussa is that as he presides over the change that he desires to take place at MBC, he should also tell his friends in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) National Executive Committee and Cabinet colleagues that he wants to see a changed MBC, a better MBC. An MBC that is open to all political parties in the country-Malawi Congress Party (MCP), People’s Party (PP), UTM Party and United Democratic Front (UDF). An MBC that allows Lazarus Chakwera, Joyce Banda, Saulos Klaus Chilima, Cassim Chilumpha, Ras Chikomeni Chirwa-and a host of other opposition and independent aspiring presidential as well as parliamentary candidates.
To underscore his seriousness about what he told MBC, Mussa should now take that message and statement to other media channels and forums.
That Malawi is a multiparty democracy should not just be reflected in the Republican Constitution. People expect institutions like MBC to reflect democratic values in their operations.
If Mussa is serious about MBC opening up, he should not wait for this to happen only during the 60 days of the official campaign period. He should start now to prepare the ground to ensure MBC really opens up.
Otherwise people will think all that Mussa said that MBC should open up is mere rhetoric which is another kind of abuse of the public broadcaster that should not be allowed in a democracy. n