Malawi journalist charged with criminal libel – police

Malawi Police Service has pressed charges of criminal libel, insulting the president and  false publications to an online editor for Malawi Voice, Justice Mponda, in connection with “cooked up” stories.

Southern Rehgion police spokesman Superintendent Nicholous Gondwa said they have charged the journalist with three counts and that his file has been open in Lilongwe where he will be prosecuted.

“He has been arrested on three charges, that of insulting the president, publishing false stories and criminal libel,” police spokesman said.

Mponda: Faces three charges

A law expert at the University of Malawi explained that criminal libel is the publication in a permanent form of a story about someone which is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by an injury to his reputation.

The legal expert also says charges of insulting a President drives from Section 4 of the Protected Flag, Emblemes and Names Act, Chapter 18:03 of the Laws of Malawi

It says: “Any person who does any act or utters any words or publishes or utters any writing calculated to or liable to insult, ridicule or to show disrespect to or with reference to the President, the National Flag, the Armorial Ensigns, the Public Seal, or any protected emblem or protected likeness, shall be liable to a fine of £1,000 and to imprisonment for two years.”

Police spokesman said  the charges are connected to stories about president Joyce Banda resigning, where a fake Facebook account purportedly created in the name of the president had a post a few days ago announcing that she has failed to run the country and was resigning.

The other one is the latest Malawi-Tanzania border wrangle where the paper alleged that Malawi Government has given 48 hours to Tanzanian High Commissioner Patrick Tsere to leave the country.

It alleged that the Tanzanian diplomat  was declared persona non grata and has been required to leave the country following an interview on a local radio, Zodiak.

The Media Institute for Southern Africa-MISA Malawi chapter said it is monitoring the developments

Misa-Malawi chairperson Anthony Kasunda asked journalists to give Mponza “moral support.”

Meanwhile, a blogger Pearson Nkhoma has claimed that Mponda authorises and publishes his critical articles posted on his blog.

“It is not clear why Justice Mponda or Malawi Voice could not just be sued, or why the Malawi Police could just demand my whereabouts and have me arrested,” posted Nkhoma on his blog.

Banda became president of this impoverished southern African nation in April, after Bingu wa Mutharika’s death.

Media in Malawi operate under strict regulations and activists have long campaigned for reforms.

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