Community Journalists challenged on electoral reporting

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has challenged the media to objectively and accurately disseminate electoral process news to the general public for them to make an informed choice in the May 21 tripartite polls if we are to have credible, free and fair elections.

Speaking Thursday during the official opening of a three day workshop for reporting elections for community journalists (CJs) that took place at Crossroads hotel, MEC chairperson for finance and administration committee Commissioner Linda Kunje said her organization realizes the critical role community radio stations play before, during and after elections hence the training to equip journalists with skills and knowledge that would enable scribes to report professionally.

Cox (standing) and Kunje (2nd from left) during the training

“Knowing very well how dangerous voter apathy is, we decided to build capacity to CJs to avoid the Rwandan genocide scenario whereby people lost lives and valuable property due to misunderstandings that arose due to disputes of elections results.

“Let us therefore, be objective, fair and accurate when writing our stories as we build up to the May 21 general elections with an aim of avoiding political tension and violence,” Kunje said.

Kunje also warned bloggers and social media users against posting false and unverified opinion polls whose methodology is questionable, saying such tendency has potential of fueling violence.

On his part, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) chief technical advisor Richard Coax commended the community journalists, saying they have been true and greatest stakeholder in the whole electoral calendar more especially at community level.

“The role of civic and voter education has been smooth because 85 percent of the masses live in the rural areas and out of these, 75 percent earn less than a dollar per day, making it hard to own a television set or buy a newspaper for news and the only source of vital information is community radios.

“That is why UNDP came in with the technical support to have your elections reporting skills shaped so that whatever the general public get is reliable and credible so that at the end of the day, we hold credible elections whose results are also accepted by all the contesting candidates and stakeholders,” Coax said.

About 35 community radio stations with 100 reporters and program makers attended the meeting which was funded by UK Aid, USAID, EU, Irish Aid and Norwegian Embassy.