Poking fun at President Peter Mutharika is a risky business in Malawi as 25-year old teacher, Mike Suedi, has been convicted by the Blantyre First Grade Magistrate Court for insulting the President.
Suedi, who comes from Khwalala Village, Traditional Authority Juma in Mulanje, was arrested at Chileka last week Friday, a day before the President commissioned the construction of the dual carriageway from Chileka Airport to Clock Tower in Blantyre City.
The insults which he was charged with cannot be repeated.
In her determination on Tuesday, first grade magistrate Kitty Nkhoma found Suedi guilty on two counts of conduct likely to cause breach of peace and insulting the President.
But the teacher escaped custodial sentence as he was ordered to serve 80 hours (equivalent to two months) community service at Southern Region Police headquarters and 12 months suspended sentence.
Nkhoma in her ruling pointed out that it is common that people insult the President and said the punishment would be a lesson to others.
Said Nkhoma: “The court is aware that it is common in our communities to insult the President who has the right to be respected. And I am also su[rised that as a teacher what do you teach your students? “
She added: “The punishment will teach others that insulting the President is an offence.”
But human rights defenders say the the law undermined freedom of expression.
“Prosecutors should not be overzealous about charging people who comment about President Peter Mutharika in drinking halls and other social places” commented Lubwalubwa Juma .
“Freedom of speech means citizens have a right to criticize and even poke fun at political leaders. It is ridiculous to criminalize such actions,” Juma said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :