Two journalists arrested after writing about president’s fear of ghosts

New York, March 15, 2005—Two well-respected journalists were arrested today by police at their homes in the commercial capital of Blantyre, in southern Malawi, after reporting that the president feared ghosts may haunt the presidential palace. They are currently being detained at police headquarters in the capital, Lilongwe.

According to international news reports and local sources, the arrest of BBC reporter Raphael Tenthani and Mabvuto Banda of the independent daily The Nation stemmed from reports by the journalists alleging 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.

It is unclear whether the journalists have been charged, according to Joseph Makuwira, a spokesman for The Nation.

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.