Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) has described as unfair Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) move to publish its views only on a matter over which the radio station was summoned.
Macra summoned ZBS on August 24 to explain why it aired an interview with Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament vice-chairperson Kamlepo Kalua in which the legislator reacted to a 24-hour ultimatum President Peter Mutharika gave him to reveal names of Cabinet ministers who allegedly took part in the plunder of public resources in what is known as Cashgate.
In a statement published yesterday, ZBS said unless its defence is heard, Macra’s act has potential to prejudice written submissions which the regulator called upon any interested person to make on the matter by yesterday.
Meanwhile, the radio station has also faulted the time frame Macra gave the public to submit its views on the matter, saying it was “very short”. Macra’s time frame was stated in a statement which the regulator published in The Nation of Tuesday, November 1 2016.
“In conclusion, having attended the hearing on 24th August, Zodiak Broadcasting Station finds the timeframe given for submission of the public’s views to be very short. While Macra reviewed the case for over two months, the public has only been given two days, Tuesday, November 1st to Thursday, November 3rd 2016,” reads part of the statement.
On the defence it put up to Macra during the August hearing, ZBS said, among others, it submitted that Kalua’s interview was aired as a reaction to Mutharika’s demands and it [ZBS] tried to get Kalua’s reaction on the same day, but was unsuccessful until the following morning around 8am when it aired the interview live in keeping with Section 5 of the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters which Macra said the station failed to comply with.
On Macra’s finding that ZBS was in breach of its broadcasting licence and Communications Act for allowing Kalua to digress and allege that former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s regime killed Robert Chasowa and that former president Bakili Muluzi’s regime killed Fanikiso Phiri and Evison Matafale, Zodiak said it submitted that “without necessarily endorsing Kalua’s remarks, the information on the killings of these three individuals was in the public domain.
“There are reports, accessible to anyone, which were released after commissions of inquiry into the same. When Macra advanced that the late president Bingu wa Mutharika could not defend himself, Zodiak submitted that legally, the dead could not be defamed.”
Commenting on the developments, Media Council of Malawi (MCM) has said it is unfortunate that both sides are not agreeing on what really transpired during the August meeting when Macra summoned Zodiak.
“However, in all fairness, Macra could have stated both parties’ stand in its statement when calling out for written presentations in order for people to appreciate how the two sides presented [themselves] during the meeting,” said MCM executive director Vales Machila in a telephone interview yesterday.
On August 16, Macra summoned ZBS after it [Macra] found Zodiak’s broadcast of its interview with Kalua in contravention with the Communications Act and its [Zodiak’s] licence as it made unsubstantiated attacks on two parties (DPP and UDF) without giving them a right of reply as required by Schedule 3 of the Communications Act [Code of Conduct for broadcasters]. n