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

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid