Malawi Govt won’t tolerate fabrication of stories –Justice Minister

The Malawi Government says it is pleased to note that police apprehended an online journalist who allegedly published false news as that is being disrespectful of the rule of law, which it does not tolerate.

However, it says it is pleased with the fact that the journalist was brought before a competent court of law within the required period of 48 hours.

Police arrested 27-year-old journalist, Justice Mponda, who works for an online publication, Malawi Voice, on the wee hours of Monday for purportedly publishing false information.

Kasambara: Media cautioned against fabricating stories

He  was formally charged Tuesday with one count of publishing false information using a fake presidential Facebook page at Lilongwe Magistrate Court after spending a night in the cooler.

Mponda has since been released on bail after pleading not guilty to the charge on conditions, which also include reporting to Blantyre Police Station every Monday and surrendering two sureties of non-cash bond.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs who is also the country’s Attorney General, Ralph Kasambara said the publication, purporting that the Tanzanian High Commissioner to Malawi, Patrick Tsere, had been declared persona non grata (expelled in the country) had the potential to destabilize the country’s cordial relationship with Tanzania and bring uneasiness to the rest of the diplomatic missions between the two countries.

The minister expressed concern that the article had been picked up by the international media and the international community at large and government “would like to put it on record that the publication and its contents were false as ambassador Tsere remains in situ as the High Commissioner of Tanzania to Malawi.”

“The publication, to an extent, has done some damage to the image of the Republic of Malawi because we now have had to respond to many enquiries in regard to the matter,” said Kasambara.

He added; “while government respects and will always ensure freedom of expression is guarded, it will not tolerate publication of false news.”

Justice Minister appealed to institutions like MISA Malawi and Media Council of Malawi to be proactive in taking steps to discipline reporters, newsmen and media houses that publicize falsehoods.

“Government would like to appeal to all media houses and journalists at large to carry out their duties with a great sense of responsibility towards their country,” said Kasambara.

“Government wishes to reiterate its stance that the media will always be an important partner as we endeavor to develop this country so it is a better place for every Malawian,” he explained.

Mponda was arrested at his home in Blantyre before being transferred to Lilongwe on the same day for questioning at Lingadzi Police Station.

Mponda’s lawyer, Chancy Gondwe, said the charge was not that serious as it attracts a fine if convicted.

The matter has been adjourned to November 16, 2012.

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