MISA-Malawi chair receives threats over stance on media freedom
Kasunda has been receiving threats since Sunday, barely two days after the chapter's reaction to the statement issued by State House, which warned media and civil society organisations against negative reporting and 'insulting' the Head of State, president Bingu Wa Mutharika.
One of the messages sent to Kasunda reads:
“. . .You might think (President) Bingu is the only one angry with such reporting but you would be surprised by how much support that State House statement has gained (. . .) Mainly among top bureaucrats in the country. There will be a lot of drama to unfold. But for now don't get on the NAMISA–MISA bandwagon. Yes united you stand but you are already divided. The top officials already have their people and know how divided you (the media) are. Save yourself while you can. By 2014 (when Malawi will hold general elections) the media will never be the same again.”
Kasunda, who is also a news analyst at Nation Publications Limited (NPL), believes that the strange and threatening messages were targeted at him as MISA-Malawi Chairperson. He is a human rights advocate and defender of media freedom and freedom of expression.
Another text sent to Kasunda reads: “. . .one thing that (President) Bingu hates is getting stories into the media especially damaging ones. I have read the statement out of State House on the media. I have also checked on some media gurus. Last year the Daily Times (Blantyre Newspapers Limited) retrenched media personalities at an alarming level. Previously we have seen dailies retract stories or issue clarifications on misrepresentation and stuff. Fortunately enough for you no one has been taken to task. I write mainly to warn you to tread carefully (. . .) I know MISA and NAMISA would like to defend the media but currently it is hard to do so, mainly because of the lack of professionalism in the industry.”
In a statement issued on Friday 9 March 2012, State House claimed it was aware that some journalists, editors and human rights activists were deliberately distorting statements and actions by president Mutharika with the intention of misinforming the nation, thereby stirring unnecessary panic among Malawians and bringing anarchy in the country.
MISA issued a statement on the matter calling on government to respect the media and Constitutional provisions on media freedom and freedom of expression. The statement also reminded the government that the media provided an open forum and platform for meaningful debate and dialogue necessary in an open and transparent society.
MISA-Malawi would like to condemn the threats on its Chairperson in the strongest manner possible. We call upon the Malawi Police to protect journalists and indeed members of the public who are constantly receiving threats from unknown persons. Such acts are targeted at instilling fear in journalists, a development that is retrogressive to the promotions of media freedom and freedom of expression.
We further call upon the police to investigate all threats on media freedom advocates and human rights defenders in Malawi in order to save our young democracy and prevent the country from turning into something not desirable and inconsistent with the Constitution.
MISA-Malawi also encourages journalists in the country, including members of the public, to report to the police whenever their lives seem to be in danger. We further advise all journalists to be on high alert whenever executing their duties.
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Media Institute of Southern Africa