The IPI global network is concerned about increasing threats to press freedom in Malawi after the arrest of Gregory Gondwe, the managing director of investigative news website Platform for Journalists (PIJ), and the hacking of PIJ’s website. We urge the government to safeguard the work of the press, which includes the right of journalists to protect their sources.
Malawian police on April 5 detained Gondwe in Blantyre, a city in the southwest area of the country, after he refused to disclose the source of a memo that was leaked from the attorney general’s office, according to reports.
Gondwe’s story revealed that the attorney general had approved a payment for a contract to a Malawian businessman who was at the time under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Bureau. The police also confiscated Gondwe’s computer and other gadgets, which were released to him 24 hours later.
A week after his arrest, the website of PIJ was hacked and taken offline by unknown entities. The police denied any involvement in the hacking incident.
“We urge authorities in Malawi to conduct an independent and transparent investigation into the hacking of the Platform for Journalists’s website, which has deeply concerning implications for press freedom in the country”, IPI Director Scott Griffen said.
“The arrest of Gregory Gondwe for refusing to reveal his source is equally alarming. The confidentiality of journalists’ sources is a sacred tenant of press freedom and is explicitly protected by law in Malawi”, he added. “The government is responsible for ensuring authorities are safeguarding this right so that journalists can continue to report important public interest stories”.
In addition to press freedom guarantees in the country’s Constitution, Section 32 of Malawi’s 2017 Access to Information Act protects journalists from having to reveal their sources.
According to reports, the police denied that they arrested Gondwe. A spokesperson for the police released a statement on April 5 stating that they had “invited” Gondwe for an interview about an ongoing corruption investigation.