The Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Center for Development for the People (CEDEP) have urged the Malawi government to stop police brutality, in light of the arrest and beating of BNL Times journalist Archibald Kasakura.
Kasakura was roughed-up and arrested on Tuesday as he was taking pictures of law-enforcers chasing street vendors in Limbe town.
The law-enforcers are jointly with Blantyre City Council removing vendors from city streets. Kasakura, who was detained at Limbe police, was granted bail after his media company’s lawyer Innocent Kalua intervened on the matter.
In a statement made available to Nyasa Times, the two human rights bodies said they dearly subscribe to the relocation of vendors to their designated market places, as one way of maintaining order and hygiene in country’s city streets.
“However, that does not necessarily imply citizens ought to be subjected to various forms of human rights violations such as assault and seizure of their merchandise. It is within the professional code of conduct of the Blantyre City Council and the Police to execute such operations without trumping on the citizens’ basic rights. That’s our bottom line,” reads part of the statement co-signed by Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence, executive directors for CHRR and Cedep respectively.
The rights campaigners condemned the Police and city council’s officials’ “deliberate attempts to conceal evidence of the ugly side of the sweeping exercise through subjecting a journalist to brutality just to prevent him from taking pictures which would expose the human rights violations like the one showing Blantyre city council officials beating women during the exercise.”
The statement adds: “It sounds even more of a professional decay for the Police and city authorities to extend such measure brutality to journalists whose only crime, if crime, is to inform the general public of some forms of human rights violations associated with the clean-up exercise. “
CEDEP and CHRR pointed out that Police’s unprofessional misconduct potentially frightens away the media from the executing their job professionally.
“ Such primitive and barbaric conduct by the Police and Blantyre City Council officials have no space in the current democratic dispensation which embraces human rights for all including freedom of expression and that of the press,” reads the statement.
The rights campaigner urged Malawi Police to rise up and respect and protect fundamental rights and freedoms including press freedom by amongst other things desisting from any steps that would worsen their already battered image.
“We at CHRR and Cedep therefore implore the Malawi Police service to seriously and promptly track down all those political officers and Blantyre City councils who were involved in this brutality which left both the journalist and the woman wounded in the process. Swift investigations must be ensued in the saga, and the victims must be compensated accordingly.”
The groups asked police to come up with a statement of (re)assurance to the media community of their commitment to protection and respect of press freedom as enshrined in both domestic and international human rights legal frameworks.
“Otherwise, press freedom is at stake in the country, if the recent events are anything to go by, as some journalists henceforth may not freely exercise their duties in such volatile environment, a scenario if not promptly addressed which may be detrimental towards the promotion of our nascent democracy which heavily relies on a free, credible media. It’s high time the Malawi Police Service came out of its cocoon, and address this once and for all.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Civic Education, Kondwani Nankhumwa said government has registered its “distress” at the assault and detention of the reporter.
Nankhumwa gave an assurance that the perpetrators will be brought to book and face the full extent of the law.
“There is nothing that justifies the victimization of journalists in a civilized society,” he said.
Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has also condemned the incident.
Anthony Kasunda, Misa chairperson in a statement, appealed to the Police to behave in a mature and professional manner and to avoid beating and jailing reporters for merely doing their job.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :