The hacking of Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ) website is a serious attack on journalism, violation of right to access to information and a criminal offence under Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act of 2016.
The hacking of the website investigativeplatform-mw.org was noted on Thursday, April 14, 2022 and the site remained inaccessible for many hours on Friday.
“Our website has been hacked by unknown group and readers cannot access it at the moment. We are working with our IT team to retrieve it and resume the important work of publishing public interest journalism. The public will be notified once we have retrieved our website,” reads the notice on PIJ facebook page.
The incident happened barely nine days after officers from the Malawi Police Service (MPS) detained PIJ Managing Director Gregory Gondwe and held on to the computer and phone they confiscated from him overnight before returning them.
The confiscation of Gondwe’s Information Technology (IT) equipment by the police already raised serious privacy concerns and this latest hacking incident vindicates such fears. We believe the hacking incident is not a mere coincidence.
MISA Malawi believes the hacking is intentional and we cannot rule out the involvement of State agents considering the circumstances.
We are concerned that the police officers who must be in the forefront to combat Cybersecurity risks of Malawians and others in the country were directly involved in actions that qualify them as prime suspects in this Cyber attack.
The hacking is a direct attack on media freedom, right to access information and a criminal offence under the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act of 2016.
The Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act of 2016 prohibits hacking, cracking and introduction of viruses and any person who commits such offences is liable to a fine and to imprisonment for seven years.
We therefore ask the State to investigate and prosecute anybody who violated section 21 of the Constitution of Malawi by violating Gondwe’s privacy and are now prime suspects in this hacking incident.
We wish to remind government that these continued attacks on journalists are tarnishing the country’s image on press freedom, a fundamental component in a democratic society.
We would like to appeal to journalists in the country to not cower down to such intimidation tactics. The calling to practice journalism is to the service of society and where some groups take desperate measures to interfere with the work of the media is validation that journalists are on the right course.
MISA Malawi also appeals to rights bodies in the country, diplomatic missions and lawyers of good will to join us in the fight for media freedom and to further protect citizen’s right to know.