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Radio station vehicles attacked

(MISA/IFEX) - The situation is tense at Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), a privately owned radio station located in the Capital Lilongwe, where two of its vehicles have been attacked by thugs on two separate occasions.

The first incident took place on Sunday, 17 July 2011 while the second incident occurred on the night of 18 July.

According to sources, masked men were seen throwing stones and petrol bombs at the ZBS branded vehicles. The reasons behind the attack are not yet known, but sources said the attacks were in connection with planned mass demonstrations scheduled to take place on July 20.

The peaceful demonstrations have been organised by leaders of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in protest against worsening economic and political situations in Malawi. Currently, there is an acute shortage of fuel which has lasted close to six months. Human rights bodies, including the donor community, have raised concerns over what they have described as deteriorating human rights standards in the country, a development that has forced donors to withhold aid to Malawi.

Just like other media houses in the country, ZBS has been covering events leading up to the scheduled mass demonstrations. This coverage has not been welcomed by the authorities, and probably resulted in the sporadic attacks on ZBS branded vehicles.

Meanwhile, the Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has condemned the attacks on ZBS. In a statement signed by the chapter's acting chairperson, Anthony Kasunda, MISA Malawi says ". . . It is disheartening that some people would want to instill fear in media houses and media practitioners who are executing their professional duty in the country. These are very unfortunate developments because an attack on the media directly affects people's access to information since instilling fear in media practitioners leads to self-censorship which is dangerous to the country's democracy . . . We do not want to believe that these unwanted elements amidst us are serving the interests of influential people."

The statement further said that sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution guarantee freedom of expression and the press, respectively. "We expect the authorities and indeed any other persons who have problems with journalists in the country to channel their complaints through media bodies such as MISA Malawi or the Media Council of Malawi, which are mandated to guard against violations against media freedom and professional ethics, respectively."

MISA Malawi has further appealed to government authorities to step up security for media houses and media practitioners in the country and that the Malawi Police Service should track down the attackers and bring them to book.
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