MARCH 15, 2005
Updated: April 15, 2005

Raphael Tenthani, freelance
Mabvuto Banda, The Nation


Police arrested Tenthani, a freelance reporter who contributes to the BBC, and Banda of the independent daily The Nation at their homes in the southern city of Blantyre after the journalists reported that President Bingu wa Mutharika had moved out of the presidential palace because of fears it was haunted. The allegation was widely carried by Malawian media over the weekend, according to Reuters.

Both journalists were charged with “publishing a false story likely to cause public fear contrary to Section 60 (1) of the penal code,” according to a police statement quoted in The Nation, and were released on bail after being detained overnight in the capital, Lilongwe.

Reverend Malani Mtonga, a senior adviser to the president whom the journalists quoted as their source, denied the reports after they appeared, and President Mutharika has claimed that his political enemies planted the allegation in the press, according to local and international news stories.

On March 22, Director of Public Prosecutions Ishmael Wadi told state television that the journalists were also charged with “causing ridicule to the high office of the president,” according to Agence France-Presse.