The year 2020 was unprecedented and remarkable, not just for Malawi but for the world. The pandemic, unfortunately, also brought to Malawi opportunities for corruption in the procurement and delivery of healthcare services needed. This is just one of the highlights from the inaugural State of the Newsroom for Malaw (2021), focusing on corruption in the media in Malawi.
The “State of the Newsroom” is an annual report, where previous editions focused solely on discussing issues in South Africa’s newsrooms. This latest issue is the first to focus on another country rather than South Africa and is published by the journalism and media studies department at the University of the Witwatersrand.
The Malawi edition, also looks at other various issues, including changes in the media landscape, political influence on newsrooms, working conditions and low pay for journalists, and the newsroom’s sustainability — issues are underscored by corruption. With a third of the country’s budget lost to corruption each year, it was critical that this report focused on this topic in Malawi. The report explores how the media talks about corruption and the controversial issue of corruption in the newsroom itself.
The launch of the report also included a discussion with some of the contributors to the publication and was facilitated by investigative journalist Vitus-Gregory Gondwe, who was in conversation with Tereza Temweka Ndanga who is the chairperson of the Media Institute of Southern Africa MISA-Malawi; Edyth Kambalame, editor at Nation Publications Limited and Gracian Takula, Nation Publications deputy-editor.
The report aims to encourage an environment of debate around critical issues that have an impact on the news media and the practice of journalism in the country, to promote critical self-reflection amongst media practitioners, concerning the purpose of journalism in supporting and sustaining democracy; and to serve as a publication of record.
Some of the key findings:
- Kambalame said that the report has revealed that “sometimes the media especially the print media will publish interesting and powerful investigative pieces but there is a need to follow-up on these issues as well to see them to their logical conclusion”. She explains that when journalists report on a story, it isn’t investigated further.
- Kambalame said she recognizes that journalists face many challenges outlined in the report, such as low pay and long hours . However “if a journalist recognizes that they are “there to defend the public good and that their job is a calling, then they should play their rightful role in society,” said Kambalame.
- “There is a fear amongst journalists to tackle corruption from within. Politicians have capitalized on the low pay journalists receive, under resourced newsrooms. Essentially politicians take advantage of the challenges that journalists face,” said Kambalame.
- Ndanga said that media houses are struggling financially, which translates to journalists being paid poorly. Find a solution to help these media houses to make money and therefore can pay journalists better.
- She explains that a politician is supporting so many media houses in Malawi. “Even if a media house isn’t owned by a politician, the sustainability of media houses is driven by some political form”.
To tackle corruption in Malawi and the newsroom, the responsibility must be shared amongst civil societies, media houses and journalists.
Find the full State of the Newsroom Malawi report here.
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