Police close radio station, detain journalists

New York, May 25, 2004—Three days after contested presidential elections in Malawi, police shuttered the community radio station MIJ 90.3 in the commercial capital of Blantyre, arrested four of its journalists, and accused two of them of inciting violence.

On Sunday, May 23, armed police moved into the radio station at around noon after host Arthur Chokotho conducted a live telephone interview with opposition spokeswoman Kholiwe Mkandawire, who said the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) party had stolen the elections and threatened opposition action if the UDF candidate was declared president.

Station Manager Evans Masamba told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that he eventually cut off the interview, but that police raided the station’s offices even after the broadcast was halted. Officers arrested Chokotho and Masamba, as well as reporters Wonder Msiska and Tony Khoza, who were also there.

Msiska and Khoza were released without charge that evening. Authorities held Masamba and Chokotho overnight and ordered them to report to the police on Monday.

The station remained closed on Tuesday afternoon.