Malawi court discharges online journalist Mponda: ‘Arrested wrong person’

The Lilongwe Magistrates Court on Friday freed Malawi  Voice online journalist, Justice Mponda on charges of publishing false news likely to cause fear and alarm among people after the State failed to provide witnesses.

The State was expected to parade three witnesses, President Joyce Banda aid Reverend Malani Mtonga, Police IT expert Supritendent Jere and former National Director of CID, Bob Mtekama. Police prosecutor, Happy Mkandawire told the court for a fifth time was not ready with witnesses and asked for adjournment.

Mkandawire told the court his witnesses were not ready with evidence as they were waiting for forensic analysis from Jere.

But defence counsel, Chancy Gondwe objected to the adjournment, questioning State’s willingness to conclude the case.

Gondwe wondered why the State rushed into arresting Mponda without investigations, arguing they arrested a wrong person.

Journalist Mponda; Freed
Journalist Mponda; Freed
Lawyer Chancy Gondwe: Successfuly defended journo Mponda
Lawyer Chancy Gondwe: Successfuly defended journo Mponda
Blogger Pearson Nkhoma: Author of the articles
Blogger Pearson Nkhoma: Author of the articles

The alleged story, lawyer Gondwe told the court was written by a blogger Pearson Nkhoma currently based in UK.

”Its comic and lack of diligent on the part of governmet to make the arrest using tax payers’ money and fail to have the matter concluded,” Gondwe said.

He asked the court to dismiss the case since the State has failed to provide evidence and witnesses.

Surprisingly, Mkandawire, however, did not object the dismissal but asked the court not to make it outright acquittal.

Principal Magistrate, Benjamin Chulu blamed the State for failing to investigate the matter before arresting Mponda.

Chulu said many cases stalled due to unpreparedness by the State to have witnesses ready before commencing prosecutions.

”The State should have learned from its past mistakes and investigete the matter thoroughly before arrest. I uphold the defence’s application and dismiss the case. All bail conditions are therefore set aside,” Chulu said.

Mponda was arrested in October last year at his Chiwembe home, Blantyre and was immediately transferred to Lilongwe, a distance of about 310 km.

He was initially charged with three counts of insulting State President Joyce Banda, publishing false information and criminal libel.

But the charges were changed to that of publishing false news likely to cause fear and alarm among people.

Mponda’s arrest forced several media and human rights organisations, both local and international to renew their calls for government to stop using archaic insult laws such as Protected Flags, Emblems and Names to arrest journalists arbitrarily.

Media freedom advocacy organisation Misa-MalawiMisa Malawi also condemned the instilling of fear and intimidation in journalists by transporting him from his base in Blantyre to Lilongwe.

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