South Africa-based Campaign for Free Expression (CFE) has questioned Malawi’s commitment to press freedom ideals following the arrest of investigative journalist Gregory Gondwe last week.
“The recent arrest and release of Platform for Investigative Journalism Managing Director Vitus Gregory Gondwe presents an opportunity to ask whether freedom of expression, access to information and whistle-blowing are protected rights in Malawi,” a statement which the organisation has released reads.
The organisation calls on the Malawi Government to offer guarantees that press freedom and whistle-blowing would be protected in Malawi.
Gondwe was detained on April 5 following his refusal to disclose the source of a story published by the platform.
He was released later after media watchdogs such as Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa)-Malawi and human rights organisations condemned Malawi Police Service agents’ actions.
CFE further reminds the Malawi Government that, as a party to international and regional human rights charters such as The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights Model Law on Access to Information for Africa, it has to be seen to be walking the talk.
“Even though the Model Law is not a legally binding document, Malawi, as a State party, is expected to adapt its laws and structures of its legal system to ensure that, in the process of reviewing and enforcing national legislation on access to information, the principles and objectives of Model Law are observed to the utmost,” the statement adds.
On April 6 2022, Misa-Malawi Chairperson Teresa Ndanga and other officials met with Attorney General (AG) Thabo Nyirenda to discuss issues surrounding the arrest of Gondwe.
Ndanga said, during the interface, Misa-Malawi stressed the need for all journalists to be protected in the country.
The organisation later issued a statement in which it called on police to align its activities with the AG’s commitment.
“We can say our meeting has been fruitful as the AG has apologised but we want to stress to all government departments that they have to respect the rights of journalists in the country. We have the Access to Information Act that needs to be upheld all the time.
“Misa-Malawi will also be engaging with the Inspector General of Police to map the way forward, especially when it comes to police confiscating gadgets of journalists and making unnecessary arrests. We condemn what happened in all its totality,” Ndanga said.
Nyirenda said he regretted the incident.
“Our meeting was good; we discussed issues surrounding rights of journalists, at the same time mapping the way forward on how government institutions can work together amicably,” Nyirenda said.
In statements, Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Media Aids and Health Watch, the British High Commission to Malawi and the United States government, among others, condemned the arrest of Gondwe.
Eric Msikiti is a Senior Reporter/News Producer at Times Group. Though relatively young, Eric boasts years of experience in Malawi’s media industry.