Lusaka, September 5, 2023—The Football Association of Malawi should investigate the August 25 assault on Kasupe Radio reporter Smart Chalika by supporters of the Silver Strikers Football Club and penalize the club to send a clear message that attacks against journalists are not condoned, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
Around 2:30 p.m. on August 25, Chalika, a reporter with privately owned Kasupe Radio, was photographing a scuffle between rival fans at Bingu National Stadium in the capital Lilongwe when he was approached by at least 15 people wearing merchandise of the Silver Strikers Football Club, one of the country’s top super league soccer clubs, according to Chalika, news reports, and a statement by the Malawi chapter of the regional press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa.
The supporters demanded he delete the photographs, and when he refused and gave his camera to a colleague who immediately left, they began punching and kicking Chalika all over his body, the journalist told CPJ.
Nearby police officers rescued Chalika from the crowd, Chalika said, adding that he had not filed a case with police on advice from his lawyer, who is drafting papers to sue the club for damages. Chalika was treated at a local hospital for bruises and a sprained ankle.
“The Football Association of Malawi, as the national governing body of football, must ensure that it is not seen as condoning any violence on or outside the football pitch, especially when fans assault members of the press,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator in Durban, South Africa. “There is precedent worldwide for soccer clubs to be held responsible for their fans’ conduct, including the deduction of league points, and Malawian football authorities must act accordingly.”
In their statement, MISA demanded disciplinary action against the club’s supporters who attacked Chalika and against head coach Hendrik Pieter de Jongh, who called several questions asked by reporters at a post-match press conference “stupid.”
A Silver Strikers media officer told CPJ via messaging app that MISA “handled the issue” but declined to comment further.
CPJ’s calls and messages to Gomezgani Zakazaka, the Football Association of Malawi’s communications and competitions manager, did not receive a response.