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Reporter assaulted by Malawi government official during interview

UPDATE: CEO arrested over assault on journalist (MISA, 12 January 2013)

(MISA- Malawi/IFEX) - 7 January 2013 - Anthony Masamba, a journalist with one of Malawi's major radio stations, Malawi Institute of Journalism FM (MIJ FM), was assaulted on 5 January 2013 while conducting a face-to-face interview with the head of the Malawi Confederation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), Chancellor Kaferapanjira.

The interview, which was not broadcast live on air, focused on recent media reports which claim that the State House was overspending on its allocated budget. Despite calling for austerity measures to be put in place in Malawi, the State House has reportedly overspent on its 2012/2013 national budget allocation barely five months into the fiscal year. This has prompted criticism from various stakeholders, including civil society and the media.

MCCCI is tasked with monitoring government expenditure and Masamba, who is also MIJ FM Bureau Chief for the capital city, Lilongwe, says he was seeking the body's comment on the expenses incurred by the State House when Kaferapanjira lost his cool and assaulted him.

"I asked him to comment on the alleged overspending at the State House but he lost his temper, punched me and smashed my recorder," Masamba told the Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Malawi).

The journalist has since been treated as an outpatient at Lilongwe's Kamuzu Central Hospital for a fractured lower jaw and bruises. Police are currently investigating the matter.

Commenting on the matter, MISA-Malawi Chairperson, Anthony Kasunda, expressed shock and dismay at the conduct of the MCCCI executive.

"This is very sad and regrettable especially coming at a time when we are trying to forget the experiences of the past regime," Kasunda said, referring to the late president, Bingu wa Mutharika. "Journalists have a right to freely gather information and for a renowned official like Mr Kaferapanjira to do this is very unfortunate."

He added: "We have well set structures to deal with professional misconduct and if Mr Kaferapanjira had issues with the journalist, we would have appreciated it better if he had engaged the Media Council of Malawi or MISA to handle the matter. Journalists should not be beaten for merely doing their job and we urge the police to look into this matter thoroughly."

MISA-Malawi will continue to closely monitor further developments as well as Masamba's condition.
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