MEC Chairperson Speech during opening of validation workshop for media code of conduct

Jane Ansah: MEC Chair

Greetings to you all.

I welcome you all to the meeting today.The Commission values your presence and indeed your contributions. Therefore, feel free to participate in the discussions.

We have gathered here to give our final input to the Media Code of Conduct on reporting elections. The theme for the meeting today is “Responsible Media a Catalyst for Credible Election”. This theme was not randomly chosen but the Commission considered the critical role the media plays in all aspects of elections. Over the years we have been conducting elections, the Commission has come to appreciate the media as a critical stakeholder in building an informed electorate and also mobilizing people for high voter turnout.The media have a duty to inform and educate the electorate.

This contributes to low null and void votes. With your investigative skills,the media should also help in checking the existence of any fraud or malpractice not in conformance with the law. By exposing such ills, you also greatly contribute towards a free, fair, credible, transparent and inclusive election.

The theme is also building on the experiences that have occurred in other countries where the media had aborted its responsibility and started perpetrating violence, hatred, tribalism, ethnicity, extremism, among other social ills. The violence in Kenya in 2002 and the 1994 Rwandan genocide immediately come as classical examples where the media had contributed to national disturbance. Journalists have answered charges and some have even been jailed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, having said that, allow me to thank all the media houses in Malawi for the wonderful job that they have been doing related to elections. Without your support we could not have achieved what we have managed in the past elections. You share part of the credit.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Commission has been part of the history of this nation. It has witnessed the changes in the media industry especially the increase in the number of radio stations to the extent that we now have over 60 broadcasting licensees. The increase in the number of players callsfor corresponding efforts in regulating the media to ensure that all media houses remain professional and do not abuse their privileges and rights. One effort of attaining that is the Media Code of Conduct we have been reviewing over the past few weeks and we will adopt by the end of today.

The review of the Media Code of Conduct today offers an opportunity to reflect on the experience of 2014 and,together,agree how we move forward. I take note that a good number of media houses present here were not there in 2013 when we signed the document we are revising today. I am certainthough that you were somewhere within the media industry and therefore familiar with the document. In this respect, I encourage everyone present here to take full interest in this document and contribute how we can improve it. The opportunity is here for us to fill some of the gaps that were experienced in 2014 and even propose the removal of some sections that might not be relevant with the dynamics of today.

Letme state it clearly that the Malawi Electoral Commission wishes for an electoral environment conducive to delivering free, fair, transparent, inclusive and credible elections for 2019; an environment where stakeholders freely operate in accordance with the law and democratic principles;an environment that allows the media to report with a view to educate and inform the public without fear or favour and in a non-partisan manner.In a bid to achieve these aspirations, this is why the Commission has brought together all the media houses existing in the country to discuss this Media Code of Conduct.

At the Commission, we would like the media to own this document. To take it as their own favourite book and not look at it as a Malawi Electoral Commission publication. In that way, adherence to this code of conduct will be voluntary and inspiring.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the document that we are reviewing today is the one that we developed and signed for in 2013. The MEC secretariat took time to circulate this document to all media houses soliciting your input. The feedback that we received has been incorporated in the document which is before us.Having done a good work to this document in 2013 and having already incorporated your feedback, there may not be many issues to consider than could have been if we were starting from the scratch.

Before I resume my seat, allow me to thank all political parties, Civil Society Organizations and Development Partners that have made it to be part of this process. The work of the media has a bearing on various electoral stakeholders and that is why the Commission has involved them in this process. I urge you all to participate effectively in this exercise.

Allow me also to thank the European Union who have provided the funding through the basket fund managed by the UNDP so that we can hold this meeting. As we have always said credibility of elections is not only determined by the activities on the polling day but the entire process. So, whoever supports any activity we are undertaking in preparation for the elections, is contributing to the credibility of the elections.

Finally, I wish to repeat that it is the commitment of the Malawi Electoral Commission to deliver free, fair, transparent, inclusive and credible 2019 Tripartite Elections. The Commission believes that in order to achieve this noble goal,all stakeholders must play their rightful role. In short, elections are everybody’s responsibility.

May God bless you all and Bless our country!

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