Malawian journalists and their Zambian counterparts have signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance partnership in improving media coverage of children’s issues in the two countries.

Malawi’s Media Advocates for the Advancement of Child Rights (MAACR) and Zambian based Media Network on Child Rights and Development (MNCRD) have pledged to work together in areas such as media training, children news agencies, and research.

Improving the situation of children

MAACR President Mallick Mnela has hailed the signing of the MoU as a launch pad to the successful implementation of child-friendly media in Malawi and the region at large.

“MNCRD Executive Director Henry Kabwe has been instrumental in the formation of the MAACR. We believe from him, we will tap a lot of wisdom to improve children’s situation in the country,” Mnela said.

In his remarks, Kabwe said children in the SADC region face similar challenges and the signing of the deal will help reduce the challenges. “We have similar challenges. We can only win if we consolidate our resolve as a united front,” Kabwe said.

Save the Children Malawi, financiers of the training program, championed the signing of the MoU

Meanwhile,tthe Media Advocates for the Advancement of Child Rights (MAACR) has appealed to media practitioners to ensure that children arrested in the recent riots by primary school pupils should be treated according to the law.

In a statement released on Friday, MAACR President Mallick Mnela said it was unfortunate that children were subjected to tear gassing. “It’s unfortunate that children had to experience this kind of treatment,” said Mnela.

Malawian primary schools normally have children aged between 7 and 15. In the statement, Mnela also observed that the children should be treated in the spirit of the Child (Care, Protection and Justice) Act (2010) and the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Commemoration of Soweto incident in South Africa

The DAC is commemorated every year on 16th June in memory of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa, during which students who marched in protest against the poor quality of Education were massacred by the then apartheid regime in place in South Africa.

In Malawi, the events leading to the introduction of the day resonated with events that took place earlier this week in Balaka, Blantyre and Ntcheu.

Some primary school pupils in these areas were engaged in protests against the suspension of classes due to the on-going teachers strike. In some instances, the pupils’ riots turned violent. There is also information that some third-parties were involved in the protests.

MAACR President says his organisation categorically condemns all acts of violence, lawlessness and immoral conduct. Based on media reports, nine pupils and over 20 third-party elements have been arrested and are scheduled to appear before the court.

"We at the Media Advocates for the Advancement of Child Rights (MAACR) wish to appeal to all parties involved in the investigation, prosecution and publicity of such activities to exercise caution against violating children’s rights," Mnela said.

Mnela urged journalists in Malawi to probe to determine if the children said to have been in conflict with the law were subjected to a preliminary inquiry which determines whether the offence they committed should be dealt with by the criminal justice system or not.

Mnela said, "The MAACR wishes members of the media to establish if the relevant authorities ascertained the ages of the children to determine whether they can be held criminally responsible for their actions (the age of criminal responsibility in Malawi is 10 years)."