US embassy cable - 04LILONGWE143

Elections: State Media Denying Equal Access

Identifier: 04LILONGWE143
Wikileaks: View 04LILONGWE143 at
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2004-02-20 11:15:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PGOV KDEM KPAO MI Elections Media Political
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, KPAO, MI, Elections, Media, Political 
SUBJECT: Elections: State Media Denying Equal Access 
REF: A) 03 LILONGWE 1202 
     B) 03 LILONGWE 1058 
1.  With May 2004 presidential and parliamentary 
elections approaching, state-owned radio and television 
persists in almost exclusively broadcasting ruling party 
campaigning and pro-government news.  Neither the 
Electoral Commission nor the Malawi Communications 
Regulatory Authority is willing to take any action to 
ensure balanced coverage.  Unequal access to public media 
for the opposition during the run-up to the elections 
clearly jeopardizes Malawi's chances of holding free and 
fair elections. 
2.  Members of the donor community (UK, EU, Germany, 
France, Norway, UNDP and the U.S.) issued a joint 
statement on January 30 calling on the Information 
Ministry and Boards of Directors of state-owned Malawi 
Broadcasting Corporation and Television Malawi to ensure 
equitable coverage of all political parties.  Minister of 
Information Bernard Chisale dismissed donor concerns and 
insisted that the opposition would receive coverage of 
their events if they informed reporters of their 
functions and provided them transportation (as does the 
ruling party).  This argument, however, is specious in 
that much of the reporting is not live and journalists 
often do not actually attend functions they report about. 
3.  Comment.  Post has been producing a monthly overview 
of state radio news, highlighting partisan coverage.  The 
reports have made the pro-government bias at state media 
crystal clear to a wide readership, including government 
officials, donors, and private media.  There is almost no 
positive coverage of opposition news or opposition 
campaigning, and little prospect that the situation will 
change at least until the beginning of the "official" 
campaign period in late March.  End comment. 

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