Monday, October 24, 2011


October 24th, 2011 For Immediate Release The Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) is disturbed with increasing reports of death threats on reporters deemed critical of top government officials. Since September this year, three journalists have received death threat text messages for doing stories that mention top government officials or focus on issues critical of the State. Recent reports indicate that Radio Maria Journalist Branzio Chingwalu and Capital Radio Talk Show Host Brian Banda have been receiving death threats for doing stories critical of the State. Reports state that Chingwalu received a death threat message on his cell phone for doing a follow up story on remarks First Lady Callista Mutharika made on scarcity of fuel when she opened a health centre in Mzimba recently. Mutharika is reported to have indicated that rural people need not worry about fuel. The text to Chingwalu reads: Sankha chimodzi, imfa kapena moyo. Unalemba nkhani yonyoza First Lady chifukwa chakusowa mafuta. Ntchito yako ikuphesa mphwanga, (Choose life or death. You wrote a story that castigated the First Lady because of the fuel shortage. You will die because of your job, we are monitoring you and our network is stronger than you think.’ The text to Banda partly reads: ‘Brian ukonde moyo osati ntchito. Ndikumva chisoni ukhala next are close to find Chasowa. Boma ndi Boma, (Brian love life not work. I feel sorry for you. You will be the next victim and you are close to be with Chasowa). Government is government.’ Robert Chasowa was murdered after allegedly threatening to reveal government secrets and Nation Publications Limited (NPL) Journalist Phillip Pemba received death threats over an article that revealed that Chasowa had dealings with the police before he was murdered. MISA Malawi considers these threats as very serious attempts to muzzle the media and curtail meaningful dialogue. We are forced to believe that these threats have the blessings of top government officials who have opted to stay silent despite the fact that these threats are being made in their names. Recent threats on journalist Phillip Pemba were made because Inspector General Peter Mukhito and Southern Region Police Commissioner Rodney Jose were mentioned in the article. Former Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) Editor Joseph Mwale also received death threats after allegedly publicising a recording of a private conversation between Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mutharika and former Deputy Minister of Sports and Culture, Charles Mchacha. Radio Maria journalist Chingwalu is receiving threats for pursuing a story on First Lady Callista Mutharika’s remarks and Brian Banda is receiving death threats for coming up with content critical of the State. None of the top government officials mentioned has openly commented or denounced these threats. However, as always stated in our statements, these acts are barbaric, retrogressive and unnecessary in an open and democratic Malawi and require collective condemnation. These developments instil fear and curtail meaningful dialogue and debate on pertinent issues that affect our country, scarcity of fuel and its impact on rural lives or the murder of Robert Chasowa for example. We therefore call upon the authorities, specifically government officials and personalities involved, to openly condemn and call for thorough investigations into such threats. We also call upon the police to update Malawians on progress being made in investigating these threats. IG Peter Mukhito, Southern Region Police Commissioner Rodney Jose, and other top government officials associated with these threats should come out clean and disassociate themselves from these barbaric acts for fear of tarnishing the image of government and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Finally, we appeal to journalists to be professional and thorough in pursuing their stories and above all to be alert and to openly report threats of any nature to relevant authorities. Signed Anthony Kasunda MISA Malawi Chairperson

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