As the world commemorates the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists today, November 2, MISA Malawi calls on the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and other relevant prosecuting authorities to develop an interest in prosecuting people who commit crimes against journalists and media workers.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed November 2 as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ at its 68th session in 2013.
We believe the prosecution of those who commit crimes against journalists and media workers is the surest way of sending warning to all enemies of media freedom, freedom of expression and access to information.
In Malawi, those who commit crimes against journalists are left scot-free even in instances where the police know the perpetrators. In some cases, perpetrators have been from the same Malawi Police Service and while authorities have repeatedly promised to discipline the perpetrators, nothing has materialized.
On a positive note, today we acknowledge the successful prosecution of a man who assaulted Times Group Correspondent Tiyese Monjeza at the Mulunguzi Magistrate’s Court in Zomba in April 2022. The man, a follower of Redeemed Church of God, assaulted Monjeza for simply taking pictures of Pastor Penjani Sodzera who had been convicted on a defilement charge. Monjeza’s assailant has since been convicted and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment. This is the best example of how police can work to safeguard media freedom.
The State has the Constitutional duty to protect every person, including media professionals, and safeguard media freedom and freedom of expression.
For a thriving democracy, journalists must be safe and free from threats and attacks. If journalists and all other media workers are to effectively perform their duty of seeking, receiving and imparting information and ideas, they need a safe space.
Threats and attacks on journalists create fear and facilitate media self-censorship thereby diluting media independence, one of the key components of media freedom. Any kind of violence against journalists and media workers threatens freedom of expression and right to access information.
We therefore call for the government’s deliberate measures and actions that address threats against journalists and facilitate interest in the prosecution of everyone who attacks journalists.
We also call on journalists and media workers to report to police any crimes committed against them.
Let us all join hands to end impunity for crimes against journalists.