BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost) – In what is seen as political muzzling over the media, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has questioned the country’s media conglomerate Times Group for changing program formats and schedule without authorization from the Authority.
The communication regulator query follows the country’s state owned tax collector Malawi Revenue Authority sealing of Times Group premises on Friday morning for a MK1.6 billion debt in taxes.
But the media house resumed its operation on Saturday after a court injunction was obtained restraining MRA from shutting down the company which was served to MRA lawyer Felix Tambulasi.
Macra has therefore demanded comprehensive explanation from Times management as to why it did not follow program formats and schedule on Friday.
In a latter dated January 13, 2017 addressed to Times Television and Times Radio’s Station Manager, signed by Macra Director General Godfrey Itaye, and made available to The Maravi Post, MACRA states that the news organization erred when the TV relayed BBC feed while radio played news whole day without the authority’s consent.
Macra observed that the licence for TV and radio prohibits Times from changing over 20 percent of its program schedule without authorization from the Authority.
“Times Television relayed feed from BBC without carrying out any other programming, whilst Times Radio played music the whole day. There was no formal communication made to the Authority on the programming change.
“Be advised that according to your licences (Clause 12 of Times Television’s licence and Clause 10.3 of Times Radio’s licence) you are prohibited from changing over 20 percent of your program schedule without authorization from the Authority,” the letter reads.
“We would like you to explain in writing within seven days working days from the date hereof, why you did not follow the program formats and schedules and why the authority was not informed of the change”, demands Macra.
But George Kasakula, Times editor-in-chief, claimed the action of MRA is politically motivated arguing closure was linked to coverage of how President Peter Mutharika’s government had bought expensive emergency maize from neighboring Zambia.
Despite the closure the media group on Saturday through its paper, Malawi News carried its defiant headline titled, “We are still out”, while promising to give the public their tax compliant history and how MRA has changed their status from being a normal tax payer to high tax payer over the years in due course.