By Andrew Mukhuwa, MEC Stringer
An international media expert and trainer has advised Malawian journalists to desist from glorifying politicians, saying the tendency dilutes the power in them to probe and to fire relevant questions to generate answers that satisfy a voter.
The German media consultant, Andreas Lange said this on Monday in an interview on the sidelines of a Voter-Centred Elections Reporting training workshop at Malawi Sun Hotel in Blantyre where MISA Malawi, in partnership with Deutsch Welle Akadamie from Germany, were training journalists in election reporting skills.
“In Malawi, when I listen to journalists’ interviews with politicians, they always call them honourable. For me, I think, is an evidence that journalists and politicians communicate on the same eye level,” Lange said.
He added that the idea of being a politician is to serve the people who voted them in power, and if one does not serve, they cannot be voted again in the next election.
“Journalists should figure out real burning issues of the people and confront the politicians and ask them why they really put in place to solve people’s problems.
“To make good elections reporting it needs three sides; the voters who are able to express what their really burning issues are, journalists to pick those things to good research and speak to politicians about that and the politician who takes the voters and the journalists seriously,” said the trainer.
Lange observed that politicians feel like they are an authority and behave so and therefore it is imperative that a journalist is in the shoes of a voter.
MISA Malawi chairperson Theresa Ndanga agreed with Lange but was quick to point out that there are several schools of thought that may be engaged to analyse the observation.
“It may be a problem addressing politicians as honourables where journalists consider themselves lesser beings or not equal to whoever they are interviewing and the respect gets in the way of proper critical analysis of the issues, failing to ask critical questions,” she said.
She said sometimes it is house styles that matter to address an individual Mr or Mrs, by just identifying names or calling them excellencies and honourables.
Ndanga added that sometimes the word honourable can be used sarcastically where an elected member is not doing things that are in tandem with their title, then are used to tell them they do not deserve the title.
Participants commended the hands-on approach the trainer’s used as it gave them an opportunity to gauge their ability to absorb knowledge, put it to practice and be able to appreciate failures and opportunity for improvement.
In his closing remarks, MISA Malawi National Director, Aubrey Chikungwa thanked participants for their eagerness and dedication to learn and applauded the trainers for doing a good job.
The three-day training workshop that started on Monday and ended on Wednesday attracted participants from different media stations from the Southern part of Malawi. The participants were awarded certificates of attendance by MISA Malawi.