MEC cautions Malawi media on opinion polls

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As the May 21 tripartite elections draw closer, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has urged the country’s media to be watchful when reporting opinion polls to avoid voter apathy during the polls.

MEC Commissioner Linda Kunje made the remarks when she officially opened a 3-day elections reporting training for community journalists in Lilongwe.

Commissioner Kunje observed that some dubious opinion polls are aimed at tarnishing the credibility of elections a development she described as unfortunate.

Cox (standing) and Kunje (2nd from left) urged the media to verify stories

“It is very critical as we are doing the counting down to the polling day but despite journalists signing the media code of conduct, there’s been a lot of misleading opinion polls conducted and reported by the country’s  media,” said Kunje.

Commissioner Kunje said a lot of efforts and resources have already been spent towards the elections hence the need for the media to be professional when discharging their duties.

“Times like these many pollsters come to light with some questionable opinion polls with dubious statistics, as professionals you should thrive to question them on their sample size and who commissioned the opinion polls,” added Kunje.

Kunje who is also chairperson of the finance committee of MEC also cautioned political party leaders to be watchful when posting various messages on social media.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Technical Advisor Richard Cox said incorrect usage of social media can lead to destructive and harmful impact on the polls.

Cox agreed with Kunje on the importance of media in the electoral process saying community radios are vital because they cater for those who cannot afford newspapers, for instance.

“Social media cuts both ways because it is also used for spreading rumours which are damaging to the electoral process so traditional forms of media are important because they can dismantle these damaging reports in time,” said Coax.

He therefore urged the media to desist from posting unverified information regarding the May 21 tripartite elections.

The training has targeted 35 community radio stations and 100 participants in total.  It started on 18th April, will end on 20th April.

Additional reporting by Leah Malimbasa

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