The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter and Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) have described as disheartening the assault on Times Group journalist by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters at Parliament yesterday.
The journalist, Douglas Banda, was assaulted while filming DPP supporters as they were being evicted from Parliament for disturbing proceedings. The irate DPP supporters ordered him to delete the pictures he had taken.
Information and Communications Technology Minister Nicholas Dausi yesterday admitted in an interview that the assault on Banda was unfortunate and must be condemned in strongest terms.
Misa Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga, in a statement issued yesterday, said it was saddening that Banda was beaten up in full view of the police and DPP secretary general Gresselder Jeffrey.
She said: “It is also disheartening that while journalists in Malawi joined their colleagues across the world on May 3 to celebrate Press Freedom, there are still some people in Malawi who are creating a hostile environment for journalists.
“Misa Malawi condemns in strongest terms the conduct of the DPP supporters and demand that the police should arrest and prosecute Banda’s assailants. We also demand that the DPP should publicly condemn this act to demonstrate its commitment towards press freedom in Malawi.”
The HRDC, led by Timothy Mtambo, Gift Trapence and Charles Kajoloweka, who last week also petitioned government over socio-economic and governance issues, said in a statement that the violence is a manifestation that the DPP tolerates violence as a tool to stifle dissenting views.
They said the assault on Banda was not only an attack on media freedom but also an insult to Malawi’s hard–earned democracy.
They have since demanded the immediate arrest of the perpetrators of the acts of violence and an explanation on why the perpetrators of violent acts are left scot-free.
“We demand that President Peter Mutharika should publicly condemn these acts of violence immediately; and that he disciplines his party on the culture of terror and impunity. Failure to do so we vindicate assertions that he is either an accomplice to the scheme or is not in control of the state of affairs,” reads the statement in part.
Meanwhile, Dausi has joined choruses of those condemning the violent conduct act and has since assured journalists in the country that the matter will be investigated thoroughly.
“As government, we don’t condone such behaviour, the media must operate freely, and I wish to assure them of such freedom,” he said. n