Monday, July 21, 2008

Immigration authorities search Joy Radio station, threaten to deport manager

MALAWI, 15 July 2008
Immigration authorities search Joy Radio station, threaten to deport manager over critical coverage

SOURCE: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Windhoek

(MISA/IFEX) - On 10 July 2008 immigration authorities raided Joy Radio premises, searching for foreigners allegedly employed by the station. The incident happened barely a day after State House Press Officer Chikumbutso Mtumodzi warned the station against what he termed "embarking on a disinformation crusade, airing libellous and slanderous programmes and playing derogatory songs" against President Bingu wa Mutharika.
Mtumodzi, a former journalist, has also alleged that the station's manager Peter Chisale is a Zambian national and threatened to deport him. However, Chisale has refuted the State House's claims, arguing his station abides by the code of conduct as stipulated in the Communications Act and that he is a bonafide Malawian citizen who only stayed in Zambia in exile, just like other Malawians, including President Mutharika and some of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's senior officials. Chisale said he holds a Malawian passport number MW233354 issued in Blantyre, and challenged Mtumodzi to cross check with immigration.

Chisale confirmed that immigration authorities went to the station looking for foreigners. He further said the authorities had also said they wanted to verify his (Chisale's) citizenship.
According to Chisale, the authorities also went to his home village on their verification exercise. When contacted, immigration Public Relations Officer Prudensia Makalamba asked to be called later.
In a 9 July press statement, Mtumodzi also accused the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), its chairperson, former president Bakili Muluzi, and Chisale of being architects of the alleged disinformation campaign against the president and ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Mtumodzi alleged in the statement that Chisale is not Malawian but Zambian. "We wish to inform Malawians and the international community that President Mutharika has always been a firm defender of press freedom and the right to freedom of speech and association. However, the President likewise firmly believes, as Mr. Muluzi and the UDF may be aware, that freedoms go with responsibilities. Suffice to put it on record today that the station manager at Joy Radio - one Peter Chisale - is behind the chaotic, savage
and politically offensive material aired on Joy Radio. We are warning Chisale and a number of Zambian nationals employed by Joy against meddling in politics because they risk being deported at the stroke of a minute," read the statement in part.

Joy Radio Vice Chairperson Tony Mita has issued a statement condemning Mtumodzi, arguing his station handles issues in a balanced and professional manner.

"By threatening the radio station, State House wants to intimidate, and deny it the freedom of expression which Malawians fought for and got through the democratic change in 1994, which ushered into Malawi multiparty politics. (. . . ) Finally, with due respect again, we would like to request State House to honourably desist from muzzling the independent radio and interfering with other arms of government - that is what
democracy demands," reads Joy Radio's statement in part.

MISA Malawi chairperson Martines Namingha also condemned State House for
intimidating Joy Radio, explaining that Mtumodzi is aware of institutions such Media Council and the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), which are mandated to handle complaints against the media. He said State House should have complained to such institutions instead of issuing threats.

BACKGROUND:
Joy Radio, which is linked to former President Bakili Muluzi, has on several occasions clashed with the government and operates under constant threat of closure by the government. Recently, at the signing of the media code of conduct for the forthcoming
presidential and parliamentary elections, Information and Civic Education Minister Patricia Kaliati ordered MACRA to revoke the station's licence, arguing the Communications Act does not allow politicians to own radio stations. She also accused the station of being anti-government.
Updates the Joy Radio case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94402

For further information, contact Kaitira Kandjii, Regional Director, Rashweat Mukundu, Programme Specialist, or Chilombo Katukula, Media Freedom Monitoring and Research Officer, MISA, Private Bag 13386, Windhoek, Namibia, tel: +264 61 232 975, fax: +264 61 248 016, e-mail: director@misa.org , research@misa.org , rashweat@misa.org , chilombo@misa.org ,Internet: http://www.misa.org/
The information contained in this update is the sole responsibility of MISA. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit MISA.
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