News / Africa

Nyasa Times Editors Seek Asylum in Britain

The Malawi government denies it's seeking to have them deported from Britain

Nyasa Times Editors Seek Asylum in Britain
Nyasa Times Editors Seek Asylum in Britain
Lameck Masina

Editors of the privately owned online publication The Nyasa Times say they’re seeking political asylum. The editors -- based in Leeds -- say Malawi’s government has asked the British High Commission in Lilongwe to help send them home to face charges. Malawian officials deny the allegation.

The Nyasa Times has often been a thorn in the side of Malawi’s authorities and even media groups. The web paper is well known for its criticism of the Malawian government, in general, and President Bingu wa Mutharika, in particular.

Critics say the Times deliberately twists information in an effort to harm authorities. In response, some government officials and media bodies in Malawi have asked the paper’s editors to adhere to journalistic ethics.

Nyasa Times Managing Director, Edgar Chibaka
Nyasa Times Managing Director, Edgar Chibaka

The paper’s publishers deny the paper is biased. The managing director and owner of the web publication, Edgar Chibaka, told VOA the Times is not a government critic, but a mouthpiece for all marginalized groups:

"In a democracy, the government, and especially the president himself, should understand that not everybody else will be on his side."

"We are not necessarily critical of the government, but we are giving the opposition a mouth-piece to channel their views which cannot be heard in parliament, or on state [radio and television]. So, if we don’t stand up for them, where else are their voices going to be heard?"

Chibaka and editor Thom Chiumia, who are members of the London-based Exiled Journalists Network, say Malawi’s government is asking the UK courts to deport them so they can stand trial on charges of publishing seditious material. Those found guilty of sedition can be imprisoned; those found guilty of libel are fined.

Chibaka says "impeccable sources" have told them security agents from Malawi are in Britain, and that the editors will be persecuted if sent home.

Nyasa Times Editor Thom Chiumia
Nyasa Times Editor Thom Chiumia

He says their lives, and also those of their children, are at risk, and that they will all be subjected to "the same torture, degrading treatment and persecution as was the case under [former president] Hastings Kamuzu Banda."

The two men have hired a private immigration lawyer from Leeds to defend them.

The Nyasa Times came under fire before last year’s general elections for publishing a story alleging president Mutharika had fallen ill and was in a coma.

The government and two independent media watch dogs -- the Media Council of Malawi and the Media Institute for Southern Africa -- condemned the story. They asked the online publication to stop publishing articles that they say could cause alarm and panic.

The paper retracted the story, but the government said the move was not made in good faith, because the two men later continued to stand by the article.

In response, the former chief political adviser to the President, Dr Hetherwick Ntaba issued a statement in February 2009 outlining the government's views. Since the two men insisted on defending the story, the statement read, the government would take them to court, "where they will meet the consequences of their dishonest and shameful mercenary journalism."

Ntaba, who was also the spokesperson for the ruling Democratic Progress Party (DPP), said the government was "compiling a full range of their fabrications, apologies and retractions against the President." Ntaba said the editors shouldn’t expect to be sheltered by geographical distance because the government had their contacts and knew where they lived in the United Kingdom.

Ntaba, who is now the General Secretary of the DPP, denied in a VOA interview that the government is orchestrating a move to deport the two men:

"These people have been writing trash all these years. Why would the government be worried about these characters now? They have been living peacefully all these years.... Nobody has interfered with them. [Allegations of government persecution] are a fabrication by Nyasa Times. This is not the first time they [have]spread false stories....."

Ntaba says he doesn’t take the web-based publication seriously: "It’s a publication I don’t respect, and I don’t think any Malawian who knows the truth has any respect for them."

The executive director of the local human rights organization ‘Malawi Watch,’ Billy Banda, has an opposing view:

"I think they are covering important issues of national interest that may not have been covered by any other media house."

Banda says speculation concerning the possible deportation of the Nyasa Times editors may be accurate considering how the government deals with dissent: "We should not only speak about the Nyasa Times. Look at The Nation newspaper today. It is highly squeezed."

He says The Nation has not been able to attract either government or private advertising, a situation that leads him to suspect the government is trying to suppress the publication: "I think the death or demise of [critical media] is a way of going back to dictatorship."

Officials with the British High Commission to Malawi say they cannot comment on individual cases. But in an e-mail, the Political and Public Relations officer, Lewis Kulisewa, said the removal of those who have no right to remain in UK remains a priority for the (British) government.

Editors of Malawi’s privately owned online publication Nyasa Times say they’re seeking political asylum in Britain. The editors -- based in Leeds -- say Malawi’s government has asked authorities at the British High Commission to Malawi to help send them home to face charges. But the Malawi government denies the allegation.

The Nyasa Times has often been a thorn in the side of Malawi’s authorities and even media groups. The Times is well known for its criticism of the Malawian government in general and President Bingu wa Mutharika in particular.

One of the editors, Thom Chiumia, was the president of the now defunct political opposition party ‘New Dawn for Africa’.

Some say the paper has favored the opposition United Democratic Front. Critics say the Times deliberately twists information in an effort to damage the government.

Some government politicians and media bodies in Malawi are asking the paper’s editors to be sure their news coverage follows journalistic ethics. The paper’s publishers deny the paper is biased.

Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, no fan of the controversial website
Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, no fan of the controversial website

The managing director and owner of the web publication, Edgar Chibaka, told VOA the Times is not a government critic, but a mouthpiece for all marginalized groups:

"In a democracy, the government, especially the president himself, should understand that not everybody else will be on his side."

"We are not necessarily critical of the government, but we are giving the opposition a mouth-piece to channel their views which cannot be heard in parliament, or on state [radio and television]. So, if we don’t stand up for them, where else are their voices going to be heard?"

Chibaka and editor Thom Chiumia, who are members of the London based Exiled Journalists Network, say Malawi’s government is asking the UK courts to deport them so they can stand trial on charges of publishing seditious material. Those found guilty of sedition can be imprisoned; those found guilty of libel are fined.

Chibaka says "impeccable sources" have told them security agents from Malawi are in Britain, and that the editors will be persecuted if sent back to Malawi.

Not only are their lives at stake, he adds, but also their children’s lives. He says, "they will also be subjected to the same torture, degrading treatment and persecution as was the case under [former president] Hastings Kamuzu Banda."

The two men have hired a private immigration lawyer from Leeds to defend them.

The Nyasa Times came under fire before last year’s general elections for publishing a story alleging president Mutharika had fallen ill and was in a coma.

The government and two independent media watch dogs -- the Media Council of Malawi and the Media Institute for Southern Africa -- condemned the story. They asked the online publication to stop publishing articles that they say would cause alarm and panic.

The government said the newspaper’s retraction was not made in good faith, because the two men continued to stand by the story after the apology.

The government’s displeasure was made clear in a February, 2009 press release from then chief political adviser to the President, Dr Hetherwick Ntaba. He wrote that since the two men insisted on standing by the story, the government would take them to court, "where they will meet the consequences of their dishonest and shameful mercenary journalism."

Ntaba, who was also the spokesperson for the ruling Democratic Progress Party (DPP), said the government was "compiling a full range of their fabrications, apologies and retractions against the President."

Ntaba said the editors shouldn’t expect to be sheltered by distance because the government knows their contacts and locations in Malawi and the United Kingdom.

Ntaba, who is now the General Secretary of the DPP, denied in a VOA interview that the government is orchestrating a move to deport the editors:

“These people have been writing trash all these years. Why would the government be worried about these characters now? They have been living peacefully all these years; why are they manufacturing their own danger now.

"They have always been in peace to write a lot of trash against the government. Nobody has interfered with them. It’s a fabrication by Nyasa Times. This is not the first time they will spread the false stories against the government."

Ntaba says he doesn’t take the stories of the web-based publication seriously: "They have been writing false things about me. It’s a publication I don’t respect, and I don’t think any Malawian who knows the truth has any respect for them."

The executive director of the local human rights organization ‘Malawi Watch,’ Billy Banda, has an opposing view:

"I think they are covering important issues of national interest that may not have been covered by any other media house."

Banda says speculation concerning the possible deportation of the Nyasa Times editors could be correct considering how the government deals with dissent:

"We should not only speak about the Nyasa Times. Look at The Nation newspaper today. It is highly squeezed."

He says the papers are not given private or public financial support. This creates the fear, Banda says, that the paper is in the process of being suppressed, "I think the death or demise of the media is an automatic way of going back to dictatorship."

The officials of the British High Commission to Malawi say they cannot comment on individual cases. But in an e-mail, the Political and Public Relations officer, Lewis Kulisewa, said the removal of those who have no right to remain in UK remains a priority for the (British) government.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs