So it is finally official that government uses its financial muscle to whip into line media houses that do not play ball; to sniff the life out of newspapers, radio and television stations that do not kow-tow to the government line; and to run out of town nosy journalists who do not pander to government’s line of thinking?
We have been here before. Drunk with power, and perhaps high on something not exactly legit, Frank Mwenifumbo ordered civil servants not only not to buy a certain newspaper but also not read it even if distributed for free!
The then Bingu apologist even warned controlling officers in government ministries and departments that their allegiance would be suspect if they continued placing government adverts in that particular newspaper.
And the dude was not even the Chief Secretary to the Government for crying out loud! Where he derived these illegal, undemocratic, if not crazy, powers only him knew.
Now, one Ireen Chikuni, the deputy CEO of the ruling People’s Party, also thinks she, too, possesses powers to regulate what should be published or broadcast. It is her considered view that since Abiti is arresting suspects who allegedly robbed us blind in the infamous cashgate, no media house should criticise government on the same. How crazy is that!
The tragedy, however, is that both statements were made right in front of presidents. Like Bingu wa Mutharika in Mwenifumbo’s case before her, Joyce Banda, too, did not admonish Chikuni. Does this denote, therefore, tacit approval of such crazy pronouncements?
And, imagine this: both Mwenifumbo and Chikuni are deputy Secretaries General in the ruling PP. Is the media safe? Hokoyo, take cover!
But Chikuni, and Mwenifumbo before her, should know that being in the ruling party does not give them a licence to suspend liberties of others. Nobody, unless they are my teacher testing me for an exam, should tell me what to read or not to read.
If truth be told, Joyce Banda is in Kamuzu Palace today because the media refused to give Bingu and his apologists their way. If it were not for an independent media, we could not have had a near constitutional crisis during those three mad days of April. We could have been like North Korea where power passes through the blood and those who ask questions are hanged without mercy.
One Bakili Muluzi was apt when he said we, Malawians, forget too easily.