Attackers of journalists go scot free

Police’s silence and failure to arrest perpetrators of attacks on journalists in Malawi have angered journalists watchdogs which call for an immediate end to such impunity in the run up to 2025 General Elections.

For instance, the law enforcers have seemingly developed cold feet to send behind bars suspected Malawi Congress Party-MCP supporters who assaulted a Times Group photojournalist Francis Mzindiko at a presidential function in Blantyre in last year.

Again, suspected Silver Strikers Football Club supporters went scot free after allegedly physically assaulting Kasupe radio reporter, Smart Chalika.

Speaking at Fort Jonhstone in Mangochi, Media Council of Malawi’s General Secretary, Jolly Ntaba said failure to arrest and prosecute those who attack journalists in the line of duty fuels crimes of similar nature.

“Attacks on journalists create an environment of fear and unnecessary censorship in the media and that is the death of journalism,” said Ntaba.

“We can preserve our democracy by ensuring that the media is safe and free to professionally report on democratic systems such as elections, politics, political parties and political leaders.

He added: “for the media to safely and freely cover the next elections, Malawi needs to develop and implement systems that safeguard journalism and do away with impunity for crimes against journalists.”

The call comes as the world commemorates the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

But in a statement, MISA Malawi Chairperson, Golden Matonga said the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has ordered Ministry of Foreign Affairs to comply with an Access to Information Law request by Nation Publications Limited (NPL) journalist Suzgo Chitete.

“We welcome the determination on a day we are celebrating World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) and it does not get any sweeter than this.

“Chitete’s initial request for information on staff and diplomats in Malawi’s foreign missions was rejected by the Ministry on grounds that the information may compromise national security. However, the Commission has ruled that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “has not provided evidence that the personal information of the diplomats and other personnel can compromise the national security of Malawi,” reads part of the communication.

It added: “There is no clear causal relationship between the information that is being sought and the prejudice which might occur in any way”.

Earlier, Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation-CHRR Executive Director Michael Kaiyatsa indicated that attacks on journalists would continue if perpetrators of the vice are not arrested and prosecuted.

Ironically, Homeland Security Minister, Ken Zikhale Ng’oma, the police and MCP had pledged to ensure that the culprits faced the long arm of the law.

After the attack on Mzindiko, Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu stormed Times Group offices in Blantyre where he apologized and regretted the incident while pledging protection and promotion of media freedom in the country.

Suspected MCP supporters who assaulted Times Group photojournalist Francis Mzindiko.

Every year on May 3, the world observes worid Press Freedom day to memorialize the journalists whose safety and media freedom are at risk—fighting against the proliferation of disinformation and seeking truth to dominate matters of public interest.

The Day acts as a prompt to governments of the necessity to uphold their commitment to press freedom.

It brings to light the significance of acknowledging freedom of expression that enables other human rights to be acquired to diminish and uncover abuses by the authority.

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