The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists for press freedom, today condemned Tuesday’s attack on journalists by police in the Malawian capital Lilongwe.

According to information gathered by IPI from local sources, police officials assaulted four journalists: Hebert Katanda from Luntha Television, Malumbo Ngwira of MIJ FM, Julius Caleone of YONECO FM and Emma Zawanda of Timveni Radio. The journalists were at Lilongwe police station to cover the arrest of Timothy Mtambo, chairperson of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition.

“This assault on journalists by the police in Malawi is unacceptable and highly deplorable. Attacking journalists who were simply doing their job is a serious violation of press freedom”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “We urge the government to take strict action against the police officers responsible and to ensure the safety of reporters covering protests.”

Protests broke out after Mtambo surrendered to the police to comply with an arrest warrant in relation to his organizingan anti-government protest later this month.

The journalists were covering a demonstration against Mtambo’s arrest at the time of the incident. Police officers fired tear gas shells to disperse the protesters and then attacked the journalists, threw stones at them and hit one of the journalists with a gun.

Over the past few months several journalists been attacked while covering protests across the country. In September, two journalists were assaulted by protestors who were demanding the resignation of the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission.  In January this year, a female journalist working for Tuntufye Radio, Patricia Kayuni, was assaulted by protestors in Chitipa district.

Malawi has witnessed widespread protests following the disputed presidential elections in May last year in which sitting President Peter Mutharika secured a second term in office amidst allegations of fraud. Since then, supporters of the opposition parties and human rights activists have been holding regular protests demanding the resignation of the head of the Electoral Commission.