Friday, March 13, 2009


They say information is powerful and people who are well informed make right decisions in life. Unfortunately a lot of people in Malawi have limited means of getting information and are not in a position to make right decisions.

Three weeks ago, I was sent to work in Muloza Border in Mulanje by the company i work for. Muloza borders with Mozambique and is a just few kilometers from Malawi's commercial city, Blantyre. One can drive less than an hour in the recently constructed Robert Mugabe Highway than using the other route from Limbe via Thyolo.

Being a person who likes to listen to news that is happening around the world, i rememebered to take my FM/MW/SW pocket radio, my Samsung cellphone with GPRS internet facility a few novels and enough money to buy daily newspapers for the period i was to stay. I din't want to miss any bit of what is happening both locally and globally. With a few months to go before the General Elections, the issuing of the warrant of arrest for the Sudanese President and the Zimbabwe Crisis, one needs to be as close to the news as possible.

To my dismay the radio has become useless and can only pick properly two Fm stations, a few MW radios and some short wave transmisions. Zodiak Radio is staion is the only reliable station that can be heard without interruptions while rest are either not heard or are difficult to pick up. The majority of the stations that are heard on Medium Wave are from Mozambique and broadcast in Portuguese which many people in Malawi don't understand. Even though the Short wave transmissions are many, there come in different languages other than English and those that use English are difficult to locate like Radio Russia. The VOA dedicates much of its time to Studio 7 News that concetrates much on Zimbabwe news. This leaves one with very little chance of listening to balanced news.

The print media has also been a biggest disappointment to the information hungry people like me. The daily newspapers reaches the border post around 10am at times up to 11am. There are moments when no newspaper comes up to lunch hour and one has to travel to Limbuli Trading Centre to buy from a Kwiksave. It has really affected me having been used to reading the dailes as early as 6:30am.

The only 'reliable' means of being informed is the internet which unfortunately has little news about Malawi. Even the little news that we find online is not balanced or uptodate. The Nyasa Times and Malawi digest are well updated and have news from many well paced sources but their content leaves a lot to be desired. The only trusted news comes from the two dailies Daily Times and The Nation which unfortunately take time to be updated.

People atleast are able to view pictures from Television Malawi, but i chose to ignore the station completely way back because there is nothing that i gain from it. Almost 80 percent of its news is already heard from some other sources or its about conferences and no real news. Save for a few programs that inteviews different people on various topics though the selection of those interviewed is not balanced.

In view of this I wonder how the masses are expected to make informed choices when there is no better way to be informed. One tends to wonder how people will vote for the right candidates without listening to the important debates and manifesto evaluations that are broadcast on various radios.

The locals seem not to be affected by this development and continue to live their lives unconcerned. But i find it hard to live without being informed in a balanced way. If this is happening in Muloza, a few minutes drive from Blantyre when most media houses are based, how are people in other remote parts of the country accessing information?