Inspector General of Police George Kainja has defended his officers for summoning freelance journalist Watipaso Mzungu over a story he published, saying it was just an interview which is part of their on-going investigation.
Mzungu was yesterday morning called to National Police headquarters at Area 30 in Lilongwe in relation to a story he published on Nyasa Times which was deemed critical of President Lazarus Chakwera.
In a statement issued yesterday, Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa)-Malawi Chapter described the police’s conduct as an attack on media freedom, especially disappointing coming after the Police IG assured the institution of protection of freedom of the press.
But in a telephone interview last evening, Kainja argued it is wrong to suggest that the police had arrested or detained Mzungu, saying what happened was a normal part of investigation processes.
He said: “Is it wrong to interview someone as part of the investigation? I can invite you to my office for an interview as part of the investigation and there is nothing wrong with that. We are not investigating Watipaso in this but we were interviewing him for an investigation on something else.”
The Police IG stressed that he stands by the commitment he made to Misa-Malawi to promote and protect press freedom.
But in a separate interview, Misa-Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga, who signed the statement, said Misa-Malawi is still disappointed with the police action which has the potential to instil fear in journalists.
She said: “The summon sends a wrong message because it was in relation to a story. Other journalists will start to do self-censorship fearing an invitation to police. He was summoned and detained for two hours and you call that an interview? We do not take that lightly. We are disappointed.”
In an interview after appearing at Area 30, Mzungu said he was questioned about a story he published on April 2, 2021 in which he quoted a statement by Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (Ccedi) which described Chakwera as a joker, time-waster and a comedian following his change of tune on the Cabinet reshuffle.
He said: “They wanted to know where I got the story and how I wrote it. So, I had to show them my raw copy and what was published and then they asked me for contacts for Sylvester Namiwa [Ccedi executive director].”
In its statement yesterday, Misa-Malawi also cited another incident that happened on April 2, 2021 where Joy Radio journalist Enock Balakasi was detained for two hours by Kawale Police for covering and taking pictures at an incident in Kawale, Lilongwe where police were trying to bring order after a resident threatened to commit suicide.
The police accused Balakasi of carrying out his duties without seeking permission, deleted pictures from his phone and later released him unconditionally.
Kainja refused to comment on the Balakasi incident, saying he had no information