29 August 2013

Malawi: Government Minister Assaults Journalist in Malawi

Media Institute of Southern Africa

On 25 August 2013, Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) journalist Raphael Mlozoa was assaulted by bodyguards belonging to Malawi's minister of Economic Planning and Development, Ralph Jooma.

Mlozoa was accused of publishing false news by the minister.

ZBS editor, Pilirani Phiri, confirmed the incident to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and said that the journalist suffered a soft tissue injury and was treated at Mangochi District Hospital in Eastern Malawi.

MISA understands that Mlozoa's assault follows a report he filed, which said that minister Jooma had himself been assaulted by certain members of the Muslim community at Mangochi's main Mosque. Earlier in the day, the same members had reportedly confiscated a television camera belonging to the state-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) in the aftermath of what appears to be a misunderstanding between the religious actors and television crew.

Refuting the story that he had been assaulted, minister Jooma then unleashed his bodyguards on Mlozoa, who insists that his story is factually correct.

The MBC is refusing to speak to MISA's Malawi Chapter (MISA-Malawi) and shed more light on what transpired exactly. However, MISA's own investigations suggest that the MBC crew went to the mosque in question and started filming prayers in session without seeking necessary permissions, prompting the reaction from believers who ended up confiscating the television camera. It is not clear whether any of the MBC crew was hurt or injured in the process.

The reported assault on Jooma only took place after the minister, who was also in Mangochi on separate business, tried to recover the television camera from the Mosque. It is likely that the MBC crew, knowing of the minister's presence in the area, alerted him to what had happened earlier.

Reacting to these developments, MISA-Malawi chairperson, Antony Kasunda, criticised the actions of the minister's bodyguards and in the same breath, called for more responsible approaches to news-gathering.

"We condemn the conduct of honourable Jooma's bodyguards [who beat up] Mlozoa for merely doing his job. In the same vein, I would like to implore journalists to respect people's privacy and to follow procedures when gathering information. We need to be very professional in order to protect our noble profession," Kasunda said.

At the time of issuing this alert, the television camera had not yet been returned. MISA will continue to monitor developments in Mangochi.

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