News / Africa

Malawi Media Ask Police Not to Arrest Journalists

Lameck Masina
Media monitoring groups in Malawi are calling for authorities to first refer to them any matter concerning journalists accused of professional misconduct. 

Editor Justice Mponda of the Internet publication Malawi Voice is charged with publishing false news likely to cause fear and alarm among the people. He is free on bail after pleading not guilty, and is expected to appear next month in a Malawi court.  

Mponda was arrested after running a story based on what government officials say was a "fake Facebook account" for Malawi President Joyce Banda, on which the president allegedly announced she had failed to run the country and would resign.

The online publication also reported the Malawi government had given Tanzanian High Commissioner Malawi Patrick Tsere 48 hours to leave the country, following a radio interview in which Tsere said a portion of Lake Malawi belongs to Tanzania. Malawi and Tanzania government officials dismissed the story as untrue.

Malawi media monitoring groups say their role of arbitration in disciplining journalists for professional misconduct has been undermined by the government arresting journalists.

“What we say is that when a party or an individual or government department feels aggrieved by the media, if they feel they have suffered defamation, the Media Council [of Malawi] has an arbitration committee where you can present your matter, and it is heard just like the same way it is done in the courts, only that at the Media Council you need not to bring a lawyer,” said Anthony Kasunda, the Chairperson for the National Media Institute for Southern Africa.

Kasunda says the arbitration committee, which is chaired by a judge, can penalize journalists who are found guilty of misconduct, similar to the procedure lawyers follow when they disbar their peers.

“This Media Council of Malawi can suspend a journalist from practicing, if he has committed gross professional misconduct," added Kasunda. "And if there is need for compensation, it will determine, and if there is a need for an apology, a determination will be made to that effect.”

Kasunda says arresting journalists damages Malawi's internationally standing.

“And you know, when you arrest a journalist, it becomes an international issue and we sometimes tarnish our own image as a country," said Kasunda. "But we are not saying we encourage unprofessionalism. If a journalist does something out of the professional conduct, I think the law has to take its course. But if the journalist has been arrested for doing his job or her job, then we have a problem with that arrest.”

Deputy National Police Spokesperson Kelvin Maigwa says what media groups are pushing for is inconsistent with how police should carry out their duties.

“It is not practical because if we go and approach a journalist who has committed a crime and say, ‘Mr. ABCD, what you did is wrong. Next time, do not do it,’ other sectors of the society will also come to us," said Maigwa. "Maybe the driver [who] has committed an offense on the road, he will also say, ‘Do not arrest or penalize or fine us. You are supposed to invite us for a roundtable discussion."  

University of Malawi Chancellor College law professor Edge Kanyongolo says there are many laws in Malawi that restrict journalists. He cites laws against libel and against insulting the president as rules that have no place in a democratic state.

Kanyongolo says laws such as these need to be challenged in court because they are inconsistent with the country's constitution.

“But it does not mean that journalists are not subject to the law because every person is subject to the law," said Kanyongolo. "Where a person feels that they have been defamed, they should be able to use the courts. Those who do not want to go to court can also go to Media Council of Malawi to lodge their complaints, and it should not be necessary to involve the police.”

Editor Justice Mponda is the second journalist to be arrested since President Banda took office in April, after the death of Bingu wa Mutharika. Blantyre newspaper reporter Clement Chinoko was arrested in May for writing a false story about two Malawian women becoming engaged. Chinoko has yet to appear in court on charges of misconduct likely to cause a breach of peace.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

Day in Photos

A dog, with his fur dyed green and wearing antlers made out of red fabric, poses for a photograph before participating in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in El Paso, Texas, United States, Nov. 26, 2015.

A dog, with his fur dyed green and wearing antlers made out of red fabric, poses for a photograph before participating in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in El Paso, Texas, United States, Nov. 26, 2015.