Journos arrested for covering Malawi, Tanzania oil talks

Police on Thursday arrested two freelance journalists who went to cover the ongoing diplomatic border talks between Malawi and Tanzania at the Mzuzu Hotel accusing them of publishing false news.

The dispute stems from colonial-era border lines around Lake Malawi, Africa’s third-largest.

The main task of this meeting of experts is for the two sides to exchange documents and hopefully reach a consensus that will end the age old border row.

The duo is also being accused of trespassing into where the talks are being held in camera. There have been heavy security at the Hotel since Monday and Police have barred reporters from entering any part of the Hotel despite the fact that the talks are being held in one hall.

Chiume: The meeting will clear the misunderstanding on the border once and for all

The journalists Enock Munyenyembe, correspondents for Power FM 101 radio and Wanangwa Mtawali for Joy radio confirmed their arrest to Nyasa Times saying they were psychologically disturbed with the Cops behaviour.

The five day meeting of experts from Malawi and Tanzania which started off on Monday at the Mzuzu Hotel were scheduled to end on Wednesday with signing of agreed minutes but extended into Thursday.

According to the official programme Thursday was supposed to be departure day for all delegates from both sides to Lilongwe where further talks are supposed to continue and end on Saturday 25th August 2012 with the signing of a joint communiqué will be issued.

The 24 member Tanzanian delegation is led by Doctor Selassie Mayunga, Director of Surveys and mapping division in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Developments and has no security detail.

While the Malawi delegation, numbering more than 40 includes apart from experts, top Military officers, Police Officers and Intelligence Officers.

Police have charged Munyenyembe with the offence of false publication and is expected to appear in court on 27th August 2012, according to a copy of a bail bond Nyasa Times obtained.

Sources told Nyasa Times that on Thursday at 9am Malawi and Tanzania groups went separate ways to deliberate, a routine that has characterized the ongoing talks.

There are unconfirmed reports of a deadlock but Nyasa Times could not independently verify this fact although local print media confirmed such a development on Tuesday quoting unnamed sources.

Mtawali was not formerly charged but was interrogated by five Police Officers. He was later taken to Mzuzu Police station where he was “forced” to sign a statement.

“They asked me who had I called and for how long? What do I know about a print edition story that talked about a deadlock? How did you come here to the hotel? They grabbed my phones and looked at the call records,” he said

Mtawali was later released without any charge while Mnyenyembe was arrested at 9am put in custody and later released on an unconditional bail with one surety.

Despite being a radio journalist, Police quizzed Munyenyembe about a story that appeared in the local print media that hinted at a statement.

Opening the meeting of experts on Monday, Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ephraim Mganda Chiume, warned the experts from Malawi and Tanzania to avoid careless statements in their discussions to iron out the border wrangle between the two countries.

“It is very easy for the discussions to break down and result in a stalemate. Let’s avoid making statements that can undermine the process. Let us remember that we are here representing the multitude of Malawians and Tanzanians… who want an urgent resolution,” Chiume said.

Both nations say they could turn to international arbitration to settle the dispute if their talks fail.

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