Malawi police arrest journalist over fraud story

Blantyre, Malawi   — Police in Malawi have arrested a newspaper journalist over an online story published last year exposing fraudulent activities involving a corruption suspect charged with conspiracy to defraud the Malawi government.  

The journalist, Macmillan Mhone, who works for the daily Nation Newspaper in Blantyre, was arrested Monday following the story he allegedly wrote in August of last year when he was working for the online publication Malawi24. The story exposed fraudulent activities involving corruption suspect Abdul Karim Batatawala, who was charged with conspiracy to defraud the Malawi government. 

Mhone’s lawyer, Joseph Lihoma, told VOA on Tuesday that Mhone was yet to be charged.  

Mhone’s preliminary charges include conduct likely to cause breach of peace and cause public alarm.   

The arrest comes two months after another local investigative journalist, Gregory Gondwe, went into hiding following a tip from military sources about plans to arrest him for writing a story about corruption in the military. 

Several press freedom advocates and human rights campaigners, including the Committee for Protection of Journalists and the Media Institute for Southern Africa — known as MISA-MALAWI — have condemned Mhone’s arrest.   

Golden Matonga, the chairperson for the Media Institute for Southern Africa in Malawi, called on police to release the journalist without conditions.    

“Malawi is one of [the] beacons of hope for democracy,” said Mantonga. “To see this backsliding of our democracy is saddening for us in the journalism profession and also for everyone who wished our democracy to continue to grow.” 

In a statement, MISA-Malawi also said the story in question does not cause fear or public alarm. 

Pearson Nkhoma, the director of the board of the online publication Malawi24, where the story was published, said police have arrested Mhone based on wrong information because he never wrote the story. 

“If anyone has a screenshot indicating that Macmillan has the byline, then those people are basically lying,” he said. 

Nkhoma said it is surprising that police have arrested someone who no longer works for Malawi24 on the matter concerning the publication.   

VOA did not get a comment from the police because calls to the national police spokesperson went unanswered. 

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