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

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

265 floundered due to

265 floundered due to financial constraints and lack of properly qualified personnel to run them. The Journalists Association of Malawi (JAMA) and the Media Council of Malawi (MCM) are good examples of these efforts. By 2007, it appeared as though the MCM had shaken off its leadership problem. It was providing leadership among journalists through the publication of best practice reports, media monitoring for inaccuracy and imbalance and handling complaints from the public about the press. The statutory mechanisms have been enthusiastically enforced by government against those newspapers that are seen as anti-government. These statutory mechanisms include the arrest and prosecution of journalists who are accused of contravening the law in one way or the other. It also includes the denial of registration of new newspapers whose owners are deemed to be linked to the opposition (See Cammack, 2000 for a fuller discussion). Aside from the statutory mechanisms, the government has also made full use civil law suits against newspapers on flimsy charges of defamation. The resulting long trials have bankrupted some newspapers and have burdened some newspapers with heavy fines. It is not wholly clear what kind of effective interventions could be initiated beyond raising journalists‟ awareness of their ethical responsibilities. The excessively partisan and politicized nature of Malawian newspapers‟ ownership results in violations of ethics of accuracy and fairness. Ultimately, therefore, the solution lies in two major reforms. The first is removing excessive bias from newspaper content. The other is providing audiences with more choices. Malawi needs a media watchdog organization that is run by journalists. Organisation such as the MCM, the JAMA and the MISA should ensure that Malawi‟s constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, opinion and information are extended and maintained against assaults by government. As noted earlier, the MCM and the MISA, in particular, have been active in monitoring professional conduct by journalists. However, these

266 organizations often face cash constraints as a result they fail to attractive high caliber management at their secretariats. The support of donors and outside media institutions will be vital and can perhaps quicken the process. These organizations should continue to monitor the professional standards of journalism through analysis of media content. They should regularly report their findings to the public through newsletters. Further, the organizations should form strong links with other human rights and democracy promotion civil society. The organizations should also organize training for journalists in reporting, and ethical and professional standards. Removing bias from newspaper content means that journalists have to be aware of their ethical responsibility of providing their audiences with balanced, critical, and analytical commentary, and full news coverage. Only when journalists are driven by such a strong sense of duty to their audiences will they be able to resist the call to sell they services to the highest bidder without due consideration of their audience. The professional code of conduct which was adopted by the MCM and JAMA must be fully observed by journalists and the MCM must further strengthen its abilities to censure journalists who contravene the code. It also means that journalists must take unionization seriously to enable them to bargain with newspapers‟ owners when they feel that owners are forcing them to compromise professional standards. Therefore, organizations such as the MCM, the JAMA, the Electronic Media Workers Union and the local MISA chapter, NAMISA, should form stronger bonds with their individual members and take active interest in the professional constraints faced by journalists daily. Providing audiences with wider choices will mean putting in place legislation that enables a wide ownership of newspapers. It could also includes making capital available for a new breed of owners apart from those that are already in newspaper ownership especially those not connected to political parties. Such a diversified newspaper market

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