Lusaka, May 24, 2023—Malawi authorities should thoroughly and speedily investigate the recent assault of journalist Francis Mzindiko and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
On the morning of May 17, political activists attacked Mzindiko, a photographer with the privately owned Times Group newspaper, while he covered a fight between supporters of the ruling Malawi Congress Party and its allied United Transformation Movement in the city of Blantyre, according to media reports, a statement by the Malawi chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa regional press freedom group, and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ.
About 15 people in MCP party regalia approached Mzindiko after he filmed a fistfight between MCP and UTM supporters and demanded he delete his photos and video. When the journalist refused, they slapped him, grabbed his crotch, stole his camera’s lens, and deleted footage from his laptop and camera memory card.
“Authorities must ensure that those who assaulted journalist Francis Mzindiko are arrested and prosecuted, in order to send an unequivocal message that violence against journalists will not be condoned in Malawi,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “While apologies are welcome, they cannot absolve those in authority from acting swiftly and decisively.”
Mzindiko told CPJ that his camera lens had not been returned to him as of May 24, and that his camera was not functioning properly following the attack. He filed a police report shortly after the incident, he said.
President Lazarous Chakwera, who leads the MCP, and Vice President Saulos Chilima, who leads the UTM, both attended the event where Mzindiko was attacked.
In his statement, Kikuyu noted that he apologized in his capacity as the country’s information minister, and not as an MCP official. In a separate statement signed by MCP Publicity Secretary Ezekiel Peter Ching’oma and reviewed by CPJ, the party apologized and promised to help police identify the perpetrators.
CPJ called Ching’oma and sent him questions via messaging app but did not receive any replies. Malawi Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya also did not reply to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app.