Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa)-Malawi Chapter has asked President Peter Mutharika to publicly denounce acts of violence, assault and intimidation of journalists by governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and United Democratic Front (UDF) members and government institutions.
In a statement issued yesterday, Misa-Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga says the letter was submitted to the President through the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and Capital Hill in Lilongwe on Monday.
She says in the statement: “Apart from requesting the President to denounce acts of violence and intimidation of journalists, we have also notified the President that we are in the meantime discouraging our members from covering events perceived to be risky, including those of the ruling DPP.”
According to Misa-Malawi, the letter follows continued hostility towards the media by members and officials of the governing DPP, the police as well as some members of the public.
The most recent incident involved DPP and UDF supporters who barred Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) reporters from covering a parade the two parties organised in Lilongwe on March 13 2020.
“We have footage showing a vehicle carrying ZBS reporters surrounded by DPP and UDF supporters banging it whilst jeering and hurling insults at the reporters. We also have footage showing supporters of the two parties threatening to use a razor blade to deal with any journalist found doing what the supporters deem ‘foolish’,” the statement reads further.
The statement further outlines various media freedom violations documented within the last three months, including against Nation Publications Limited (NPL) journalist Bobby Kabango who was threatened by former deputy minister Charles Mchacha; some DPP legislators threatening to beat up journalists in Parliament on February 18; and DPP legislator Chimwemwe Chipungu forcefully snatching and deleting footage of a scuffle in Parliament from a Kulinji.com reporter Gladys Nthenda’s phone.
It also cites the arrest of journalists at Kamuzu International Airport for allegedly covering the arrival of the European Union Elections Observer Mission Delegation “without permission”. The journalists, Golden Matonga of NPL, Steve Zimba and Francis Chamasowa of ZBS, were released on bail following Misa Malawi’s intervention.
According to the statement, journalists also continue to be assaulted by police, with the most recent case being last Tuesday March 10 2020 when journalists who were covering the arrest of some human rights activists at Lilongwe Police Station were assaulted and chased from the premises.
Misa-Malawi, therefore, says by publicly denouncing the acts of violence, assault and intimidation of journalists, the President will send a clear message of his commitment to promoting media freedom and freedom of expression in the country.