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Good journalism a product of good journalists, says Malawi minister

By Ernest Chanda in Lilongwe, Malawi

IN WHAT seems to be a common rhetoric among politicians in the SADC region, Malawi’s Information minister Mark Bokomani has accused journalists here of failure to construct reasonable questions.

And British High Commissioner to Malawi Holy Tett has observed that the media still continue to face many challenges in the SADC region.

Officially opening a Media Freedom and Democracy Conference in Malawi yesterday, Bokomani described some questions coming from journalists as “unskillful”.

The Conference, hosted by the British High Commission in Malawi, is a follow up to the Global Press Freedom Conference held in London in July this year.

“I have interacted with a lot of journalists in Malawi, and I have had to guide them in some of the questions they ask. You really fail to understand what they are talking about when they ask certain questions. So, I have had to ask some of them to reconstruct their questions; and this is challenging to the profession,” he said as the audience laughed.

“Good journalism is a product of good journalists. And good journalists are those who are well informed; and these are the catalyst to an active citizenry. If journalists are not well informed, they cannot inspire citizens to effect positive change in society. In fact, bad journalists are an embarrassment to the profession.”

And Bokomani asked journalists who felt they had reached their limit in knowledge to leave the newsroom.

He said such journalists usually developed ego and became a bad influence on young journalists.

“Journalists who feel they have reached the ceiling of knowledge should leave the newsroom. Because they feel they know too much, they are the ones who ask unreasonable questions,” said Bokomani.

“For information to flow, a free media is key. And in order to have an active citizen, you need an active media, which is persuaded to serve and ensure accountability.”

And High Commissioner Holy Tett highlighted several challenges that needed to be tackled by media practitioners.

High Commissioner Tett said the media played a critical role as catalysts for political and social change.

“Some of the challenges you face include economic challenges; that is, you face economic sanctions from those you write about. If they are not happy with what you write they will not bring adverts to your media institution. On the other hand, technology can be both an asset and a hindrance to journalism. It can be used to shut down critical media houses,” said High Commissioner Tett.

”Because of such challenges, some journalists end up writing for the powerful instead of the people. Journalists are never real journalists if they ere agents of power. Real journalists are agents of the people.”

Meanwhile, MISA Malawi Chapter national governing council member Mandala Mambulasa lamented that threats of dictatorship were still real in the SADC region.

“Theses threats are still strong, hence the need for partnerships among journalists in the region. We also need to strengthen institutions of governance in the region,” said Mambulasa.

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