Spies storm Traffic Directorate over journos vehicles

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) officials on Friday secretly stormed the Road Traffic Directorate headquarters in Blantyre and demanded information of vehicles driven by journalists at Nation Publications Limited (NPL).

A very senior government official disclosed that the NIS officers wanted to know which journalist at the NPL drives what car. Most of the journalists at NPL are driving.

“I can confirm to you that the NIS officers went to the Road Traffic Directorate. I do not know what they want to do with kind of information,” the officer said.

Kutsaira: Top spy

But NIS director Bintony Kutsaira said he could not comment on matters of “national security.”

A source from NIS also corroborated the information but pleaded for anonymity.

“My friend, what you heard is very correct. There are those instructions that we should get details of the vehicles journalists at Nation drive. According to the nature of our work, with that information, we shall be able to put the targeted journalists under surveillance.

“What can happen is that we can track down what the journalists do in the day, who they meet, where they usually go, where they live,” the NIS source said.

The NIS source suspected that there is a plot to deal with journalists at NPL.

“With that kind of information we shall be able to trail the journalists,” said the officer who sounded sympathetic with journalists at the NPL.

Management at NPL refused to comment on the development “as of now”.

NIS move comes barely two weeks after national director of youth in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Frank Mwenifumbo called on all civil servants in the country to stop buying and advertising in the newspapers from the NPL.

Two years ago the company also experienced a government ban on adverts but later the situation was normalised.

Last week the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum wrote President Bingu wa Mutharika asking him stop violating media freedom.

“We respectfully remind you of your obligations to ensure that your country fully observes its international commitments to freedom of expression, including those made under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Malawi became a signatory in 1989,” read WAN-IFRA letter.

“We also remind you that it is the duty of the state to provide an environment in which journalists are able to carry out their professional duties without fear of violence, and that the government has a duty to protect, not intimidate, journalists. Your government’s campaign against critical media has contributed to a climate of fear among journalists that promotes self-censorship,” the letter further read.

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