Wednesday, October 17, 2012

When Mr. Justice Mponda Got Bail, Misa Said...

Malawi Alert-Update
16 October, 2012
Arrested online journalist, Justice Mponda, granted bail

The Lilongwe Magistrate Court has granted bail to online journalist, Justice Mponda, who was arrested on Monday, October 15, 2012, for allegedly insulting President Joyce Banda and Publishing False Information.

Mponda corresponds for an online publication, Malawi Voice.

He was initially arrested on three counts: Insulting President Joyce Banda, Publishing False Information and Criminal Libel. Formally, however, he is only answering to the charge of ‘Publishing false news likely to cause public fear.’ It is not clear why the State has dropped the other charges.

Commenting on the case, Mponda’s lawyer Chancy Gondwe of Chagwamnjira & Company described the release as victory for media freedom and freedom of expression in the country.

“We were surprised that my client had to be transferred from Blantyre to Lilongwe. The State has competent advocates and prosecutors in Blantyre who would have handled the matter efficiently. Maybe government is employing new tactics in prosecuting people. Maybe the State is now transferring accused people from Lilongwe to Blantyre and Blantyre to Lilongwe. But this may be a strategy to intimidate and instill fear in my client,” Gondwe said.

The journalist was arrested in Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre, but was then transferred to the capital Lilongwe, 340km away, where he was held at Lingadzi Police Station, a sub-station of Lilongwe Police and not Police Headquarters as earlier reported. However, no visitors were allowed to see Mponda at this police station except with explicit clearance from Police Headquarters as a team from the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) discovered upon visiting the online journalist.

MISA-Malawi Chairperson, Anthony Kasunda, expressed surprise at the conduct of the police. “They [police] should have allowed MISA representatives to see Mponda without having to seek clearance from Police Headquarters. They transferred him all the way from Blantyre to Li
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