CHRR faults Mutharika for gagging Malawi university lecturers

Human rights campaigner at Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has blasted President Peter Mutharika for attempting to gag University of Malawi (Unima) lecturers from engaging the independent media with comments on issues of public concerns, saying such a move would be tantamount to “censorship”.

Mutharika,  Chancellor of Unima: Tells university lecturers not to comment on 'trivia'

Mutharika, Chancellor of Unima: Tells university lecturers not to comment on ‘trivia’

CHRR's Munthali  (left) says Mutharika gagging university of Malawi dons

CHRR’s Munthali (left) says Mutharika gagging university of Malawi dons

Speaking at the Unima golden jubilee fundraising dinner on Friday, Mutharika who is also Chancellor of the university visibly appeared bitter with lecturers who comment on issues of public concern in the media.

Malawi media normally solicit independent views from scholars on their field of expertise.

But Mutharika in his speech made an indirect reference to UNIMA dons who provide analysis or comments to matters of public policy or concern, discouraging them from commenting.

“As University lecturers lets avoid commenting on trivial public issues, leave this to others who are fit to comment on such but not you,” said Mutharika, a former university law professor.

He gave the example of the rift of councillors and MPs as “trivial issue” which the academics were not supposed to speak on.

But human rights campaigner at CHRR, Makhumbo Munthali, observed that the President’s “unpleasant” statement would to a greater extent be viewed that the esteemed lecturers should only concentrate on their teaching or research rather than commenting on public or political issues as they normally do.

“This may send a wrong precedence if not corrected at this infant stage as the statement may be viewed as government’s attempts to limit civil and political space for its citizens in this case lecturers,” Munthali told Nyasa Times.

“Everywhere in the world academicians play a crucial role, depending on their areas of expertise, in positively influencing public policy as is the case in the country towards strengthening democratic governance using similar public channels like media interviews, columns,” CHRR officer observed.

“The President himself, with a rich experience teaching in the academia, should be in a better position to understand these simple basics,” Munthali added.

He said President Mutharika’s definition of “trivia” leaves a lot to be desired.

Munthali said Mutharika’s comments were unfortunate coming from the Head of State who should promote freedom of expression, academic freedom, scholarly vibrancy and debate.

President Mutharika, when he was Minister of Education under his late brother’s administration Bingu wa Mutharika, presided over an ‘academic freedom’ impasse with university staff for months.

It was political science lecturer at Chancellor College, Blessings Chinsinga’s interrogation by former Police Inspector General Peter Mukhito – now State House chief of staff – that started the academic freedom saga.

The then Mutharika government fired four lecturers, including Prof Garton Kamchedzera, Dr Jessie Kabwila-(now MP), Franz Amin and Chinsinga. They were reinstated after court battle.

Vice Chancellor  at that time Dr Emmanuel Fabiano is now serving as Minister of Education.

The late Mutharika appointed a commission of inquiry to, among other things, redefine academic freedom.

Professor of law Garton Kamchedzera argued that only the Constitutional Court, and not a commission of inquiry, could interpret and redefine academic freedom. The commission was stopped from proceeding with its mandate.

In his remarks, Unima vice-chancellor Professor John Kalenga Saka said that, among others, Unima aims at enhancing research and widening access to quality and relevant education.

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Life
Guest
Its unfortunate that Malawians continue to say and believe that Peter Mutharika was an experienced law lecturer. Yes, he had been in academia for a long time but that does not mean he was experienced or good. Students rated excessively poor this law “professor”. One can see it that the guy cannot be a good teacher. He might have written a few publications with the help of colleagues but individually is a weakling. A lecturer who cannot say five sentences coherently??? This guy is a joke. Having him as president is one of the indicators of how impoverished, mind, emotional… Read more »
Mabodza
Guest
Mhesha, Where there is no vision people perish! You cant run away from your country because is in Shit. We are Citizens of our own Country only us we can shape the future of our nation. We have the right to criticise, improve and implement what is useful and productive for us. Look how poor the health sector is in terms of qualified professionals, Mind you they are more Malawian specialist doctors outside the country than we do have, others have change nationality even. Omwe anatsala siopanda dzeru kapena kupusa! Its all about serving ones nation. Don’t shut up People… Read more »
Paul
Guest

In the seventies and eighties there were four compounds in Mikuyu Prison: one for academics, one for diplomats, one for Jehovah’s Witnesses–oh, and one for actual criminals. It’s a tough row to hoe, being an academic in Malawi.

Kingster Bella
Guest

C’mmon Mr. Professor! Who else can professionally comment on trivia public issues? I dont believe it! This is not coming from you Mr. Professor of law who has added value to international public policy.
Wow! Really! this is hereditary. You would think, the calibres of the Muthalikas would be the first to promote democratic principles.

Malawi will be the first country to discourage university lecturers commenting on public issues.. this is ridiculous..

boston mlotha
Guest

commenting on trivia what a waste of time

gondwe
Guest

Atumbuka inu mukhalira zonwezo zolimbana ndi Mutharika. You will never be on the driving seat. Mbuzi zenizeni inu. Ambiri kuda muli
mbeee. Stupid

Young masamba
Guest

Like it or not,we will keep on talking bwana!,untill you change,otherwise…….aaa,kaya!

kenkkk
Guest

Mleme, the problem is that if they chose a non-tumbuka to run human rights organizations,they will all fall prey to such corrupt regimes like dpp. Govt such as dpp would not listen to human rights issues,they will abuse human rights.

So the so-called tumbukas are actually protecting Malawians from human rights abuse. Very few non-tumbukas can stand against the govt of the day if it is doing wrong.

Mhesha
Guest

Bingu told you that if you are marketable leave UNIMA and go….all because he saw a lot of trivia in you. Many of u remained put because you could not stand the stiff competition on the international job market place. All top universities are indeed famous for their research and publications of the findings. But you are busy waiting to comment in a news paper

james alfonso
Guest

Kkkkk, y is he himself commenting on this trivia, kkkkk

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