Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has summoned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) to a meeting tomorrow over remarks Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament vice-chairperson Kamlepo Kalua made during an interview with the radio.
In a letter dated August 16 2016, reference number MACRA/DG/60/fl, Macra director-general Godfrey Itaye has invited the radio station to a meeting on August 24 2016 in Blantyre where they intend to discuss the interview.
“We find the broadcast in contravention with the Communications Act and your broadcasting licence as it makes unsubstantiated attacks on the two parties without giving them a right of reply as required by Schedule 3 of the Communications Act [Code of Conduct for broadcasters],” reads part of the letter which The Nation has seen.
Macra alleges that in the interview that ZBS aired, Kalua, who is also third vice-president of opposition People’s Party (PP), made allegations that the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wants to start shedding blood, purportedly, of people deemed to be attacking or opposing government.
Itaye made reference to what Kalua was said to have alleged in the interview that the DPP regime killed student Robert Chasowa, United Democratic Front (UDF) regime killed musician Evison Matafale and Fanikiso Phiri, another student and that DPP wants to shed blood again.
Chasowa, a University of Malawi The Polytechnic third year engineering student and political activist, was found dead at the college campus in September 2011, Matafale died in November 2001 under police custody after he had written a letter attacking the Bakili Muluzi regime, while Phiri was fatally shot by police following students’ riots at Chancellor College in December 2001.
Investigations were established for all the three deaths, but no logical conclusion has been reached yet.
The Macra letter further reads: “We also fault the interviewer for lacking journalistic judgement by allowing Kamlepo Kalua to make sensitive remarks without being directed or controlled.”
ZBS director of news Teresa Ndanga said her station will comply with Macra as it is the regulator, adding that: “Our editorial policy emphasises that both sides of the story should be heard and that is what happened in this case.”
Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter chairperson Thom Khanje told The Nation that Misa Malawi will follow the matter with keen interest to ensure that Macra acts within its mandate on this matter.
Macra spokesperson Clara Mwafulirwa said the regulator observed through their monitoring machine that ZBS did not conduct themselves in an ethical and professional manner when the station allowed Kalua to make wild and unsubstantiated attacks against political parties and individuals.
She said: “We summoned Zodiak to Macra not because there was a complaint from anybody, but based on our mandate of monitoring and enforcement of the broadcasting ethics and professionalism. It should be noted that broadcasting is immediate and sensitive, and for the sake of national security we are proactive in our monitoring as a regulator.”
Mwafulirwa further said when summoning a broadcaster, Macra takes into consideration if the offended party has been given a chance to respond to the allegation in question.
She said: “The offended party might have been given a chance to respond to the Cashgate issues, but the allegations of killing Chasowa, Matafale and Fanikiso Phiri were not responded to by the offended parties.”
She said Macra used the Communications Act, Schedule 3, clause number 5 sub-section 1 and 2 that reads: “In presenting a programme in which controversial issues of public importance are discussed, a broadcasting licensee shall make reasonable efforts to present differing points of view in the same programme or in a subsequent programme within a reasonable period of time and in substantially the same time slot and that a person whose views, deeds or character have or has been criticised in a broadcasting programme on a controversial issue shall be given a reasonable opportunity by the broadcasting licensee to reply to such criticism, should that person so request.”
Asked why the regulatory body has not summonned tax-payer funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)which has broadcast report in which Information Minister Patricia Kaliati has been dressing down opposition politicians without hearing the latter’s side, Mwafulirwa said: “Macra deals with specific broadcasters separately and Zodiak has been summoned based on what they broadcast.”