UTM party has apologized to journalists who were caught in a crossfire between their supporters and some youths masquerading as representing the party at a press conference they convened at Lilongwe LEA School on Friday.
A group of people, claiming to be UTM Party youths but later were identified as political mercenaries, had invited the media to the press conference aimed at asking the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) not to goal ahead with the airports and borders five-day vigils scheduled for Monday, August 26-30
But the press conference ended abruptly after legitimate UTM supporters, led by Jessie Kabwila (one of the party’s national executive committee officials), invaded the venue and started roughing up mercenaries.
In the midst of the confusion, some journalists were also attacked and some badly beaten and injured.
In a press statement signed by publicity secretary Joseph Chidanti Malunga, says UTM registers its profound regret over the unfortunate incident and apologises to the victim journalists.
“UTM would like to assure all Malawians in general, and all journalists in particular, that it remains committed to freedom of the press and all other freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi.
“We would, therefore, like to apologise to journalists who were harrassed in any way and assure them that the party will see to it that such unfortunate incidents do not happen again in future.”
But the statement is signed off with almost a sneer when it says: “It is also important to point out that the security of journalists is always a priority for all press conferences organised by bonafide UTM officials” as if to say the media that responded to the invitation for this particular press conference were just too gullible to rush to the venue.
On some social media posts, it has been indicated that the mercenaries have been identified as indeed been UTM supporters and have since been relieved of their positions and fired from the party.
And they have also been warned that if they will be seen anywhere close to UTM functions, they will be beaten to death.
The youth organized the press conference with the aim of distancing themselves from the demostrations and vandalism which are happening during demonstrations being organised by HRDC.
UTM officials in the first place labeled these members as DPP cadres.