When advancing a policy or a cause, adopt a friend or two in the media

Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.Habakkuk 2:2

It could be rightly argued that the government cannot operate without the media, and the media cannot exist without the government. The operations of either depend or feed on each other. On the government and its operations, officials are well advised to adopt a friend or two, more where possible, in the media.

Looking back in my role as a media practitioner, it was often overwhelming when a high-ranking official in political circles, went out of their way to either acknowledge or extend an invitation to me, a media practitioner. In the same way, for the political figures, to see a media report that highlights his or her job-related activities, is always uplifting.

Briefly, seven examples come to mind….there are many more, however these suffice for the commentary.

 

  1. Former Minister in MCP and UDF administrations, Aleke Banda – His manner of handling media personnel, was charming. My memory goes back to when he held the portfolio of information and tourism minister, heralding the Daily Times and Malawi News, finance minister, and later Press Corporation chief. He always smiled and greeted you loudly; he knew most media persons by their names. That is enameling
  2. Former President Bakili Muluzi – It is entrenched in my history, thanks to former UDF Secretary-General Harry Thomson, to have been given the opportunity to be the first journalist to interview Bakili Muluzi upon his becoming President in democratic Malawi. I whisked in along with me, a BBC journalist. That earned me points in the world famous media institution. Humbling.
  3. Former President Bingu wa Mutharika – I was enameled to this President when he launched the zero tolerance policy at Chancellor College; also announcing his break from UDF. As he walked out of the hall, he stopped to permit a student, who broke all protocol by (Gary debt had to climb down a column from the balcony), while shouting “Bwana, I just want to shake your hand.” Mutharika commended for being the first president to invite all journalists in the country to lunch at the Kamuzu Palace. Enameling.
  4. Former President Joyce Banda — I got to appreciate JB when she was chairperson of NABW; she called and castigated former UDF heavy weight Brown Mpinganjira, for permitting a cartoon appear in his paper that ridiculed women’s desire to wear trousers. As president years later JB honored me by permitting me to author a booklet in her first year in office. Brilliant.
  5. Former Vice President Justine Malewezi – Like Aleke Banda, knew most journalists by name. But I remember him most, for when I was part of his delegation to the 1994 Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Secondly I remember being specially invited by his office, and I placed in the “Special Persons” category during the Constitutional conference, 1995. Speechless.
  6. Former AFORD party President Chakufwa Chihana – It was uplifting to hear that the AFORD leader took copies of The Independent (newspaper I published and edited from 1993-2003) to every party meeting. But the grand signature statement, was being personally invited by Honorable Chihana to be the director of ceremonies when Kerry Kennedy Cuomo presented him his Human Rights champion award in Lilongwe. I would also escort Ms. Cuomo to some development projects. Wow.
  7. Former Minster of Gender Queen Gondwe – It was a grand and pleasant surprise, and an honor to get a call (early 1994) that Minister of Gender Queen Gondwe wished to make a courtesy call to the offices of The Independent. Another warming and enameling event. Humbling.
  8. Former Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe – He will always be appreciated for his personal handling of the distribution of the three languages of the Malawi Constitution, the announcement as an advert in all the papers currently in circulation in Malawi. He also personally ensured that payment for the advert, was made. Inspiring.
  9. Former Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development, Hon. Patricia Kaliati – She is a powerhouse as the loud voice on the portfolios she carried. As Minister of information, she defended media persons; as gender minister, she pushed for gender equality and championed the end of child marriage; and finally in the  portfolio of civic education, culture and community development, she incorporated previous portfolios exploits, running with the acquired capacities from previous posts. Commendable.

Recently it pleased President Mutharika to appoint a new minister to head the portfolio of civic education, culture and community development. This ministry, more than all the portfolio’s mentioned, requires heavy reliance on media to get its work done.

The first mandate, the civic education mantel alone, is huge. The local and some international papers, are awash with numerous articles on the deplorable actions of people; actions that are horrendous.

The actions, are a heavy indicator of the massive work required in civic education. To mention a few, there is the issue of the human rights abuse of albino persons, defilement of girls, rape, mob justice, killings due to jealousy. Many more fall under the other pillars, with some overlaps.

Madam Cecilia Chazama, Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development, you need to work fast, hard and keep on it 24/7. It’s a daunting task. If you could just envelope the media into your work-wagon, and the workload would become easier. The media is the instant nation-wide megaphone that when used wisely, your messages, and advocacy work, fan out in a superb manner. A megaphone is what is required to overcome all the challenges in the three pillars of your ministry. That megaphone is the media.

Three operative words: Enamel. Envelope. Megaphone.

 

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