MASERU – The Southern African Editors Forum (SAEF) has expressed shock at the arrest and later release of veteran investigative journalist, Vitus-Gregory Gondwe, by the Malawi Police Service (MPS) for failure to disclose news sources.
A statement by the Media Council of Malawi (MCM) said Gondwe was arrested for refusing to disclose sources to a story published on his Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ) which alleged that the Inspector General in that country had paid for a contract that was being investigated.
The MCM statement signed by both Board Chair Wisdom Nelson Chimgwede, and Executive Director Moses Kaufa praised Gondwe for acting professionally saying Part IX of the ATI (Access to Information Act) of Malawi, Section 50(1) protects whistleblowers for “disclosure of information which the person obtained in confidence in the course of that activity, if the disclosure is of public interest.”
SAEF agrees that Gondwe was arrested for doing his job and for upholding media ethics, a sanctity part of ethical conduct – which is not to disclose one’s sources under any circumstances including when subpoenaed by the courts. Although Gondwe has been released, it is sad that the Malawi Government, through MPS, arrested the journalist whose only crime was to report truthfully about corruption.
“SAEF would like to remind the Malawi government that journalism is not a crime and hence they should give unconditional support to the media in the fight against corruption and any other human rights injustices.
The media is an important partner as it is the fourth pillar of democracy, and we urge the government to create a working relationship to prevent any future media violations which threaten media freedom in that country, the SAEF statement said.
“SAEF applauds the media in Malawi in general, and especially journalists and editors working for the Platform for Investigative Journalism in particular, for bravery and for practicing brilliant investigative journalism.
“The government should allow journalists to do their work freely without any hindrance and we demand a guarantee for the safety of all media personnel in Malawi.
“SAEF would like to urge the Malawian government to educate its officials, especially law enforcement officers that it cannot be business as usual once progressive laws such as ATI have been adopted by a country.
“We strongly believe that the harassment of journalists should not be happening in a democracy which the new government of Malawi has declared to Africa and the rest of the world that it is.
As journalists across the world will soon be commemorating World Press Freedom Day on May 3, SAEF stands in solidarity with all journalists in Malawi, just as much as it stands in solidarity with all journalists in the region and Africa,” the statement reads.