Mtekama’s ouster cripples case of online journalist

The demotion of Malawi’s renowned crime buster Bob as police detective director has reportedly affected investigations of a case involving online journalist, Justice Mponda, who was arrested on Monday, October 15, 2012, for allegedly insulting President Joyce Banda and publishing false information.

Mtekama was in charge of the case and news about his demotion came when investigations were still underway.

Mponda corresponds for an online publication, Malawi Voice.

According to Nyasa Times sources, Mtekama left the country for Zanzibar where he is studying bachelors of law, leaving the investigations behind and this has raised doubts on whether the police would continue with the case scheduled to come in court on November 14 this year.

Mponda: Facing one charge

The source said investigations into the case has been stalled.

When contacted, Malawi Police Service director of prosecution Happy Mkndawire refused to comment on the issue saying, “sorry I have no jurisdiction to comment on matters that are still in court. Otherwise you can simply wait for the court day to come.”

Meanwhile, Mponda’s defence attorney Chancy Gondwe of Chagwanjira & Company said he is preparing for the case as usual and if there are some changes then he is yet to be communicated by the prosecution team.

“I’m ready to defend the case actually the sooner the case comes in court the better because as you are aware my client had to be locked up for three days and they transferred him to Lilongwe which is far away from his residence in Chiwembe, Blantyre,” said Gondwe.

“I did hear in passing that investigations of the case have indeed stalled following the removal of Mtekama, but that’s their internal politics and it has nothing to do with due process of justice. I hope the police will put its house in order by bringing the evidence linking my client to the so called false stories in the next court sitting,” explained Gondwe.

Mponda was arrested on October 15 last month following a spate of false articles on Malawi Voice.

He was initially arrested on three counts: Insulting President Joyce Banda, Publishing False Information and Criminal Libel. Formally, however, he is only answering to the charge of ‘Publishing false news likely to cause public fear.’ It is not clear why the State  dropped the other charges.

Among the controversial stories that saw the light of day include the one alleging that Malawi leader Mrs. Joyce Banda had stepped down, the article stemmed from a fake Facebook account of the President which Mponda is alleged to have been using.

The other one alleged that China had withdrawn its plans to construct the multimillion dollar state-of the-art Olympic stadium in Lilongwe.

While the other false  article 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.

In all instances, the Malawi government through its spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu had to come out in open to deny the reports.

Mponda’s case t is likely to open up debate, in Malawi, on the role of new media and the application of professional media ethics in the provision of online news services.

Online publishing in Malawi is still relatively new but questions are arising regarding the conduct of several online media. The government of Malawi has introduced a Bill which, if it becomes law, will regulate online media as one of its key functions.

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