What is happening in Malawi? – the Schroedinger’s cat approach to international news reporting

As many of you will have heard (or read about on this blog), there was a wave of protests/demonstrations/riots across Malawi yesterday in response to allegations of poor governance and to the interrelated issue of severe shortages across the country (fuel nowhere in sight, forex at a premium, and nightly blackouts). Particularly violent clashes between the police and civilians are said to have occurred in Mzuzu and Karonga, the two Northern cities to which I am closest.

The events of yesterday have been summarized extensively in other blogs and in the international news but there are significant differences in the death and destruction figures reported by varied sources. Part of the issue may be that the media appears to be reporting the cat’s vital signs without opening the lid.

In the chaos, basic standards of accurate reporting seem to have been lost and journalists are pumping out stories without consulting sources on the ground. As a result, no one agrees on how dangerous the country currently is, how dangerous it could become, and how many people have been harmed in the past 24 hours. And trust me, those of us in rural parts of Malawi are equally starved for the truth. My plea to the international press is that they correspond with a wider range of sources before printing news about Malawi’s current political and civil situation which may or may not be true.

I wonder how many times this plea has been made in the past…


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