MISA Malawi has penned president Peter Mutharika, requesting him to denounce acts of violence, assault and intimidation of journalists by members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), United Democratic Front (DPP) as well as government institutions.
According to the MISA Malawi Chapter chairperson Teresa Ndanga, the letter was submitted to the president on 16 March 2020, through the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) in Lilongwe.
Ndanga further said that this follows the hostility towards the media practitioners by members and officials of the ruling DPP, Police, as well as general public.
She singled out the recent incident that involved DPP and UDF supporters who barred reporters from Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) from covering a parade which the two parties had organized in Lilongwe on 13 March 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 have also 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’,” said Ndanga.
She also highlighted in the letter the serious media violations which includes; the intimidation of the Nation Publications Limited (NPL) journalist Bobby Kabango by DPP legislator Charles Mchacha, and assault of journalists by the Malawi Police on 10 March, 2020 when journalists were covering the arrest of some human rights activists at Lilongwe police station, among other violations.
“These actions were directed at the media by DPP officials, ruling party functionaries, the Malawi Police and the general public. We find these developments disturbing and a threat not just to the journalists, but to press freedom in general.
“It is more disheartening when the Police and even cabinet ministers, who are supposed to be exemplary and defenders of the law, are found wanting and ranking highly as perpetrators of media freedom violations.
“There is a perceived danger that the pattern of actions by the President’s administration could be construed as deliberate to muzzle, frustrate and even destroy the free and independent media in Malawi,” said Ndanga.
Besides requesting the president to denounce acts of violence and intimidation of journalists, MISA Malawi said it is discouraging its members from covering events perceived to be risky, including those of the ruling DPP.
However, MISA Malawi expressed hope that the president will publicly denounce acts of violence towards journalists and send a clear message of promoting media freedom and freedom of expression in the country.