President Bingu wa Mutharika signed a penal code amendment that allowed the government to ban any publication it deemed “not in the public interest.” Authorities did not immediately use the new tactic, but local journalists said the law’s existence had created a chilling effect. Government officials also made use of court injunctions to silence critical coverage of public officials’ financial dealings. Authorities and ruling party supporters pushed back aggressively against coverage of nationwide protests over rising fuel costs and diminishing bank reserves: Police and security officers beat and detained journalists; the government blocked the transmissions of four private radio stations; and suspected ruling party supporters damaged two vehicles belonging to the private Zodiac Broadcasting Corp. The managers of a critical online news outlet, Nyasa Times, said they experienced a denial-of-service attack that took down their website during the protests.
CPJ research found a surge of anti-press violence in 2011, occurring largely during nationwide protests in July.
Police were overwhelmingly behind attacks against
the press in Malawi. Officers were involved in 84 percent of cases monitored by CPJ over the past five years.
Behind the attacks, 2007-11:
2: Government officials
1: Ruling party supporter
Malawian police have held a number of journalists in short-term detentions without formal charge in an effort to silence critical coverage, CPJ research shows. No journalist was formally charged in these cases.
Despite being one of the poorest countries in Africa, Malawi has seen Internet use grow considerably, according to World Bank Development Indicators. The figure represents about 5 percent of the country's overall population. A flurry of news websites have emerged in recent years.
Internet users over time, according to the World Bank:
Nation Publications Ltd., publishers of the independent The Nation, Weekend Nation, and Nation on Sunday, was targeted with two court injunctions in March that blocked publication of articles that would have detailed allegations of tax evasion and disclosed a senior official's salary.
March 11: A regional governor, Noel Masangwi, obtained a High Court injunction to block a
Nation story that alleged he avoided paying
taxes of more than 36 million kwacha (US$237,000), according to
local reports. Masangwi did not publicly
respond to the accusation.
March 30: The treasury secretary got a High Court injunction blocking Weekend Nation from revealing his salary package, according to local reports. Secretary Joseph Mwanamvheka was earning four million kwacha per month (US$26,000), according to local reports.