This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS LILONGWE 000403
DEPT FOR AF/PD, AF/S
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV KDEM KPAO MI SUBJECT: STATE-OWNED RADIO HALTS OPPOSITION BROADCAST
REF: A) Lilongwe 400
B) 03 Lilongwe 1202
1. (SBU) Opposition presidential candidate and First Vice President Justin Malawezi's interview on state-owned Malawi Broadcast Corporation (MBC) was halted after only 15 minutes of an hour-long program. Malawezi, formerly of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) but running as an independent, was criticizing the government for overspending, over taxation, and poor performance in relation to the Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC).
2. (SBU) According to the news anchor, the Assistant Controller of News entered the studio after the first 15 minutes and signaled for the program to stop. The anchor told PAO he did not t immediately stop the program because he was confused by the interruption. The Assistant Controller, speaking on a mobile phone with whom the anchor presumed was MBC's Deputy Director General, then went to the Controller of Programs seeking assistance in stopping the interview. At the Controller's insistence, the program was cut, and the radio station completed the hour with music. (NOTE: The anchor told PAO that he fears he will be suspended for not stopping the program immediately after being told to do so. End note.)
3. (SBU) Comment. The muzzling of Malewezi by state radio does not come as a surprise. The bias of MBC has been well-documented by the Malawi Electoral Commission's Media Monitoring Unit and by the independent press. MBC, along with the UDF leadership, has been especially hard on Malewezi since his defection from the ruling party. With four days until polling day, this latest incident is further proof of the lack of a level playing field in state-owned media.