Malawi vocal human rights group the Center for Development of People (CEDEP) has condemned in strongest terms the conduct of Malawi Police Service officers who confiscated a camera from Nation Publications Limited photographer, detained him and prevented reporters from discharging their duties at Chileka International Airport during the senaking in of embattled Minister of Agriculture Goerge Chaponda from German.
Cedep view the incident as a concerted attack on media freedom .
In a statement made available to Nyasa Times which is signed by CEDEP Executive Director Gift Trapence, the organisation said the rebranding of the Malawi Police Servcice meant that they would no longer use force in discharging its duties.
“Indeed the rebranding meant the police would respect the rights of other citizens and professions who also have different roles to play in good governance and the rule of law.
“However,what the police did at Chileka International Airport is the complete ant-thesis of this and as CEDEP we are very disappointed with the conduct of the police officers. We are not in a one party era where the police would disregard the rights of others and take orders from selfish and greedy politicians at the expense of democracy and good governance.
“The conduct of the Police at Chileka International Airport does not only soil the police reforms programme which Malawians have always wanted to see in discharging its duties professionally but also revives the suspicion between the police and the media-, ” reads part of the statement.
The rights watchdos pointed out that Chapondaby virtue of being a suspended cabinet minister and a member of parliament is a public figure and that the circumstances surrounding his trip which was done on behalf of all Malawians despite being served with a court order to stop discharging his duties as a cabinet minister to pave way for investigations in the maize saga “generated a lot of public interest warranting media coverage.”
Trapence said ordinary Malawians wanted to hear Chaponda clarifying on why he still had the audacity to travel to German to discharge official duties as a cabinet minister despite the injunction restraining him from doing so obtained by the civil society organizations on behalf of all Malawians.
“That information would have been obtained by the media practitioners present at the airport and disseminated to all Malawians through the media.Sadly,the Police prevented the journalists from executing their duties thereby denying all Malawians the right to information.
“We as CEDEP are very surprised as to what the Police aretrying to hide. We understand the Police are the law enforcers. But by denying Malawians their right to information in a sensitive issue like the maize saga, are the police officers enforcing the law or obstructing justice?
CEDEP urged the police to allow the media to do its job without obstruction as the right to information for all Malawians depends on how free the media is left to do its job.
The statement further pointed that there should be no interference from anyone let alone the police because press and media freedom is one of the tenets of democracy and already we anchor the press freedom index due to a lot of reasons.
It also calls for a free Police service without any political interferece.
“Indeed the Police Officers should discharge their duties in a more professional way and in the best interests of all Malawians without fear or favor. Indeed we would be happy to see a police service that is depoliticize, ” reads part of the statement.
Malawi Police spokesperson James Kadadzera could not immedeitely comment on Cedep statement.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :