MISA Malawi is concerned with the continued arbitrary summoning, arrests and detentions of journalists by the Malawi Police.
On Tuesday, April 6, 2021, authorities at the Malawi Police Service (MPS) Headquarters in Lilongwe summoned, detained and questioned freelance journalist Watipaso Mzungu for about two hours over a story published on Nyasa Times on April 2.
Mzungu was summoned over a story in which he quoted a local organization which criticized President Lazarus Chakwera’s delay to reshuffle the cabinet by March 31, 2021 as earlier promised. Mzungu was at the police headquarters from around 8 to 10am. Police released Mzungu unconditionally after taking a caution statement.
The summoning and detention of Mzungu comes after officers from Kawale Police Station in Lilongwe also arbitrarily arrested and detained Joy Radio journalist Enock Balakasi on Friday, April 2, 2021.
The officers detained Balakasi for over two hours for covering and taking pictures at an incident in Kawale, where police were trying to bring order after a resident threatened to commit suicide.
The police accused Balakasi of carrying out his duties without seeking permission. They deleted pictures from Balakasi’s phone and later released him unconditionally.
MISA Malawi condemns the actions by the police in the strongest terms and believe the summoning, arrests and detentions are an attack on media freedom.
We have previously engaged the Inspector General of Police, Dr. George Kainja, over such violations. The current trend puts into question the commitment to protect press freedom that the IG had personally expressed.
We are also reminded of the many times police authorities have promised to discipline officers who have attacked journalists on duty. We are yet to see this materialize.
The Malawi police must understand that media freedom is enshrined in the Republican Constitution and their duty is to protect and not violate it.
Continued summoning, arbitrary arrests and detentions of journalists for simply doing their job will unfortunately reflect badly on the country’s performance in the yearly press freedom indexes.
MISA Malawi would therefore like to appeal to President Chakwera’s administration, through the Ministries of Homeland Security and Information, to work with the Malawi Police Service in addressing our concerns.