The PeopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Progressive Movement (PPM) has warned Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Professor Peter Mutharika against threatening the media.
The minister was on Sunday quoted as saying the media is discrediting itself by questioning his three-week unannounced absence from Malawi and giving rise to speculation about his whereabouts.
On arrival from a holiday in the United States of America, Mutharika asked “The Nation, Daily Times and online publications to stop creating stories because it was hurting innocent people, their credibility and destroying journalism of this country.”
In a press statement on Wednesday, PPM publicity secretary Redson Munlo said their party is saddened by the ministerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s remarks, arguing he had no excuse to leave the country without informing citizens.
Reads the statement: “It is strange that instead of apologising for his misconduct, he [Mutharika] decided to warn those who questioned his absence, particularly the media that they will pay.
“PPM takes the threats with exceptions because the media has a noble duty of informing citizens on anything being done in government. It does not require permission from government, let alone a Cabinet minister”.
PPM reminded Mutharika that he is not only a public servant…but also a presidential aspirant and brother to President Bingu wa Mutharika.
“It is, therefore, a shame for a public servant to be this arrogant instead of being exemplary and accountable to the people of Malawi,” says the PPM statement.
It says Malawian citizens, voters and taxpayers, have all the rights to question the activities and whereabouts of their public employees without exception so that if Mutharika does not want to be bothered, he should resign and go back to teaching.
When contacted for his reaction, Mutharika said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I did not threaten the media. I was merely requesting them not to fabricate stories. Get the tape of my press statement from MBC.Ã¢â‚¬Â
His personal assistant Ben Phiri also said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unfortunate that PPM has taken the ministerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s statement from a threat angle. It could have been appropriate if they took it from the advice angle.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What the minister was trying to do in the speech was to advise the daily papers not to report things based on allegations because this might force other people to sue them. However, this does not suggest that the minister has intentions to sue’Ã¢â‚¬Â
Asked why the minister targeted the dailies when none of them wrote any story about the alleged disagreement between him and his brother, Phiri maintained the minister was only trying to advise the dailies.