Thou shall not ‘insult’ Bingu or say ‘Big Kahuna’-State House

Malawi’s State House has issued a warning to all media houses in the country to stop referring to the Head of State with names like ‘Big Kahuna’ or ‘Moya’, warning  that it will ‘deal’ with journalists who continue doing that.

In a statement issued Friday by presidential press officer, Albert Mungomo, the State House said referring the President to such names is “demeaning.”

State House warned journalists that they “must stop forthwith.”

The term ‘Big Kahuna’ was coined by Associated Press and BBC correspondent in Malawi, Ralphael Tenthani, in his Muckraking column in The Sunday Times. While the name ‘Moya’ is normally used by Edward Chitsulo in his Raw Stuff column in the Weekend Nation.

Mutharika: 'Big Kahuna' pressing the panic button

Prosecution

State House said Malawian journalists should not take advantage of free speech as guaranteed by the Constitution to insult Mutharika, saying the law makes it a crime to undermine or insult the President.

“The laws of Malawi provide for the total respect and protection of the Head of State,” the statement said.

The statement warns Malawians that they will be prosecuted for insulting the President, citing Section 3 (2) of the protected Flag, Emblems and Names that states; “Any person who does any act or utters any words or publishes any writing calculated to or liable to insult or to show disrespect to or with respect to or with reference to the President…shall be liable to a fine of 1000 pounds and to imprisonment for two (2) years.”

It said President Mutharika “is therefore protected by that law. The State House believes that such insults are a violation of the law that protects him.”

The statement also noted with displeasure a Daily Times articled which had a screaming headline Bingu gets grilled, Government barks at nothing, an arrogant Bingu.’

It says the headline was “sensational and irresponsible”, claiming such headlines are “only designed to provoke certain quarters of the society.”

Nyasa Times , Facebook and radios

State House is also annoyed with comments posted on online media such as online Nyasa Times and social media, Twitter and Facebook, saying comments belittle the President.

“The State House monitors carefully such networks that are hostile and probably careless in demeaning the State President,” the statement said.

Mungomo said it was unfortunate that some Malawians had taken the proliferation of radio stations and the phone-in programmes to insult and ridicule the President.

“This is too unacceptable and the State House is not amused at all.”

Stern warning

In the statement, Mungomo issued a stern warning that “it will not standby and condone this impudence but will ensure that those that continue to do so are properly dealt with by the law.”

According to the statement,  Mutharika deserves respect because he has transformed Malawi from what it was used to be eight years ago and he is “working tirelessly to ensure that Malawi gets out of the current economic woos [sic]”.

The statement stresses that State House, where Presidential vallet Pauolos Chisale has been linked with terror activities, will “no longer stand by and watch” Mutharika being ridiculed and insulted.

Meanwhile, Nyasa Times has dismissed the threats saying it will continue allow Malawians to comment freely  with decorum on its website  and use the names associated to the President including his birth name, Webster Ryson Thom.

The online publication says the statement is a drive to silence dissenting voices in renewed efforts to reassert Mutharika’s dwindling political fortunes.

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