SPEECH BY COMMISSIONER AMBASSADOR REV EMMANUEL CHINKWITA-PHIRI,
CHAIRPERSON, ELECTORAL SERVICES COMMITTEE DURING A ONE DAY WORKSHOP ORGANISED BY MAEF AND NICE
MALAWI SUN HOTEL, BLANTYRE
- Executive Director of the NICE Trust,
- Chairperson of the Malawi Editors Forum
- MEC staff
- Editors and all journalists,
- Ladies and Gentlemen;
It gives me great pleasure, for me to stand before you. These are rare moments when you meet with editors who are the gatekeepers in the newsroom. You are always busy people but the fact that you have come here signifies the importance of this meeting and I should thank you all for coming.
I should also thank National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) who have provided funding for this meeting to take place. NICE have been nice throughout the whole period of registration. When we started registration most of the accredited NGOs were not on the ground. MEC and NICE together did a lot of work to fill the gap until some CSOs joined us in the later phases of voter registration. No one can talk of success of the voter registration without the mention of NICE.
We applaud NICE because they have not been limited in their approach and strategies to ensure that the 2014 Tripartite Elections are a success. They have also looked into building the capacity of stakeholders and in a special case, the Malawi Editors Forum (MAEF).
The MOU with MAEF is a commendable endevour because in most cases interventions have been limited to the traditional workshops on reporting elections. After that there are no follows ups or a platform for engagement. The MOU with MAEF is just coming to fill that gap and provide an effective platform for interaction.
Editors are gatekeepers and if they are left out media interventions, which have always targeted reporters because they are the ones who write the news, can be undermined. Editors decide what goes and what does not go into the newspaper or on air. As such they are very crucial if we are to achieve the desire to have an independent, free and impartial media as we approach 2014 elections.
As MEC we did at one time train media managers on elections and the media. Some of them are here and we hope the knowledge gained from that training they are using it in their respective newsrooms and will also be sharing with fellow editors, managers.
As MEC we will remain committed to working with the media by providing as much as information as possible. We hope media practitioners will also take time to always crosscheck with us before publishing whenever there is an issue of interest to MEC.
We are approaching a season of rumours and hearsays and we would urge you media managers to be on the lookout for such issues. Without encouraging self-censorship, we would urge you editors to always exercise your editorial judgment before publishing. Some of the issues will be doing more harm than good and our urge is for you to always establish their authenticity. We have a media code of conduct which the Malawi Editors Forum is a signatory through the chairman, Mr Clifton Kawanga. Take it to be your bible for reference anytime you “subbing” an elections story.
Before I resume my seat allow me to congratulate all editors in Malawi for resuscitating the grouping. This is quite commendable and it is our sincere hope that it has come to stay. In other countries the editors forum is well established with a fully-fledged secretariat. I hope your vision is towards that. Have a big vision and put all your effort to accomplish it. I have also noticed that the whole executive is very youthful. This is your opportunity to show that you can also deliver if trusted with a responsibility.
With these few remarks allow me to open this meeting and wish you fruitful deliberations. Malawi Electoral Commission has come to listen and we will listen and contribute. All ideas are good and welcome.