Each week frayintermedia highlights a journalist doing good work on the continent and honours them as our #FaveOfTheWeek. Meet Malawian journalist Mallick Mnela, who has won awards for reporting on children and peacekeeping in Africa. Mnela has received a number of death threats for his fearless pursuit of the truth.He is also the founder and managing editor of online news site iHub.
Q. How did you become a journalist?
A. It started way back while in Zimbabwe where I was born and attended primary school. I recall writing and publishing stories on the school notice board. As time progressed, I was assigned to contribute to a national children's newspaper, The New Generation at around age 10. While in secondary school, I was a regular in Malawian newspapers as a contributor to columns and letters to the editor. Actually, I got my first job based on my many newspaper cuttings spanning years of writing. I got the formal journalism training while on the job in 2006.
Q. What makes an exceptional journalist?
A. Integrity is key to being an exceptional journalist. All else complements, but integrity is fundamental, without which the journalism is compromised. Once compromised, trust is gone. And what's journalism without trust?
Q. What sort of intimidation have you received for your reporting?
A. Intimidation is part of a journalist's routine. I have been beaten and hospitalised before because of my work. I have been threatened with lawsuits or blacklisted by some sources. The degree of intimidation has reduced with experience and time. While violence was common earlier in my early days, the threat of lawsuits is now becoming common.
Q. How did you handle that intimidation?
A. The best way is to focus on facts. Journalism is about facts. If you have facts, you can only be threatened to drop them but that doesn't make them a lie. My defense is on facts - dig deep, find documents and analyse the facts then confront those involved.
When you have your facts, you command respect but you need not consider yourself out of danger. You're actually in greater danger, the more you know. You could be offered a bribe or can get killed especially on corruption stories. I have someone I trust and we map my security strategy together.
Q. What is the biggest payoff of being a journalist?
A. Journalism does not pay well in Malawi. I am actually a certified Chartered Marketer (which could help me get a much better paying job) but I have not been able to leave the newsroom for a lucrative marketing job. I get a sense of accomplishment whenever I work on a story that makes things right.