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Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

261 the agency of

261 the agency of democracy and a quality national future to the ruling UDF while drawing on the national collective memory regarding human rights abuse and bad governance perpetrated by the opposition MCP to diminish the standing of the MCP and its agenda in the national political discourse. On the other hand, the discourse featured by the “opposition” press consisted of a narrative that presented the opposition parties as the answer to government‟s and the ruling UDF‟s excesses. The future of the nation was identified with these opposition parties away from the ruling UDF. The state of affairs described above could only have negative influences on the newspaper readership in Malawi. Media in the public sphere model, according to Croteau & Hoynes (2001), should be characterized by diversity, innovation, substance and independence. In order to meet these criteria, the media content should be independent from corporate and governmental interests. Government and ownership should not limit the range of perspectives presented on political issues. According to McCullagh (2002) mass media messages should address the different interests of audiences. By restricting their commentaries to the dichotomous lines defined by ownership and their alignment to political parties, the press in Malawi failed to meet this criterion in 1994 and 1999. 8.5 Reflections on the Implications of the Findings This section examines implications of the study‟s findings on the development of a truly democratic public sphere in Malawi. The newspapers landscape prevailing in 2004 made it possible for the press to provide commentary on political issues in the national interest. However, there is no guarantee that things will continue to be favourable. First, the section sets into context the fragile nature of the newspapers landscape as it prevailed in 2004. Second, the section will discuss a model that could bring stability for

262 an objective press working in the national interest. Third, the section will discuss issues within professional journalism which can prevent exploitation of the press by fractions of capital and political power. 8.5.1 The Newspapers Landscape in a State of Flux The findings of this study have implications on the future of the press in Malawi. In 1992, when the MCP government lifted restrictions prior to the change in 1994, the country underwent a negotiated process of political change. The main players in this negotiated settlement were the then MCP government, the pressure groups (who were, in theory, civil society but in reality political parties in-waiting), and the church. Unfortunately, journalists were embedded with the pressure groups. Consequently, when the settlement was being negotiated, the media were content to let the pressure groups represent them at the negotiating table. The assumption was that there was enough goodwill in the intentions of the pressure groups to take care of the interests of the media. This, however, was a mistaken assumption because after 1994, the new leaders treated the public state owned media in the very same way the MCP had done. The state hegemony on the state radio station tightened (See Linje Manyozo, 2004). Since most of the newspapers which started between 1992 and 1994 were owned by opposition politicians, journalists found that after 1994 they had not really gained any freedom. As Chiyamwaka (2009) argues the press lost its freedom for the second time immediately after 1994. The period of freedom had lasted less than two years. The press has itself to blame for this second loss of freedom. It trusted the opposition politicians too much between 1992 and 1994. It was a trust which the new ruling elite prominently betrayed especially with regards the MBC (See Manyozo, 2004

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