A Malawi Voice reporter, Justice Mponda, was arrested for using a fake presidential Facebook page of President Joyce Banda. He was charged with publishing false information. But his arrest didn’t go well in several places. The government has stepped on the feet of journalists, so they say. They continue to point out that journalists will stop being vocal on issues that transpire as they will withdraw in fear as their right are not being upheld. The Malawi chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) hasn’t also taken the matter lightly.
But MISA is like a mother. And like all mothers, it has to protect its sons and daughters
I was such a mischievous student in my early school days. I recall knocking off the tooth of a fellow student; insulting the headmaster and peeping in the females-only-toilet. Not all of these unfortunate acts got to the keen ears of my mother. I was fairly good at concealing my poorly made prints. One day a senior student hit me, cutting open my forehead. I rushed to my mother who spat venom at the parents of the student and the school management. Looking back at those days, I know I was the one in the wrong. I was the one who disturbed the senior student from studies. When he tried to rebuke me, I had insulted him and I got what I deserved.
I don’t fault my late mother for taking hold of the parents of the student and the school management? The responsibility of a mother is to defend her child. That is what MISA is trying to do here-- fulfilling its motherly duties. We have seen this behaviour before. When a Blantyre Newspaper Limited (BNL) reporter, Clement Chinoko, was arrested for publishing a story on lesbians which later turned out to be false, it was the same MISA that spoke out against the arrest. The fact that stands in that the women were merely shooting a video and that is no news.
I personally get frustrated when I read an article which I thought was factual and I end up discovering that I was reading something made up. Much as I understand that no news can be perfectly reported, all discrepancies shouldn’t be designed but should be caused by circumstances beyond the control of the reporter. I always want to know what I am reading to be either factual or not. I don’t want to waste my time reading something only to know later that I was lied to.
Previously the Minister of Information, Moses Kunkuyu, announced that the president of Malawi, Joyce Banda doesn’t have a Facebook account.
“I do not wish to dignify the article posted on Facebook account bearing the name ‘Joyce Banda with a comment’,” read the announcement. “But due to its criminal nature, I wish to reiterate that the president, Her Excellence Mrs. Joyce Banda, the president of the Republic of Malawi DOES NOT have a Facebook account and DOES NOT address the public on ANY issue via Facebook users.”
Where were human rights activists this time to point out that the police was on a wild goose chase? Who gave someone the right to create a Facebook baring the name of the president? They didn’t. You know why? They knew it was wrong to say so. Now that the alleged culprit turns out to be a journalist, every human right activist goes on fire.
All I am saying is that while journalists have rights, they should realize that they also have responsibilities. Mr Mponda must account for his actions.
---© The Maravi Post 2012.