The Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has said it is saddened by efforts employed by the Malawi Government to silence the Media.
Misa has said this following the arrest of Malawi Voice’s reporter, Justice Mponda for publishing what the government claims false stories as well as for insulting the president.
MISA has argued that the Malawi Government is putting up charges against Mponda based on “outmoded pieces of legislation enacted during the colonial era to suppress dissent and promote colonial superiority”.
Through its machinery, the Government of Joyce Banda sent two heavy armoured Land Cruisers to net Justice Mponda who has so far been charged for publishing false information and insulting the president.
In the statement, MISA has stated that it “is shocked and deeply saddened with the detention of…Mponda [on the basis of laws which are] archaic and retrogressive for our country”, arguing that such laws “have no role to play in a democracy”.
The chapter has so far called upon government to desist from dragging the country to the colonial era by implementing such laws.
“We are also shocked and disturbed with the conduct of the police who have transferred Mponda 340 kilometers away from Blantyre to Lilongwe”, reads the strong-worded statement.
“This is torture and a clear demonstration by the law enforcers that they are not through with investigations and taking deliberate steps to subject Mponda to mental and physical torture”, it added.
“Government has all the resources at its disposal and clearly capable of keeping Mponda in Blantyre. Subjecting Mponda to mental and physical torture is unconstitutional and should not be condoned in our day and age”, concluded MISA while demanding the release of Mponda on bail within 48 hours.
According to Mponda’s lawyer, Chancy Gondwe, this arrest marks the beginning of autocratic leadership.
“Freedom of expression is the bedrock of any vibrant democracy. The gagging of the media and threats against Media Practitioners is the beginning of autocracy”, Gondwe said.
In a turn of events, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Ralph Kasambara, is reported to have conceded that charges placed against Mponda are used to suppress Government critics.
“We all know how these twin offences [sedition or inciting public action against the president] are used by the…administration to harass opposition and civic society leaders; and no such case has been prosecuted to its logical conclusion”, Kasambara said earlier this year.