MISA Malawi concerned with threats on PIJ’s Gregory Gondwe

By Chisomo Phiri

MISA Malawi says it is deeply concerned with threats on Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ) Editorial Director Gregory Gondwe.

Gondwe is currently in hiding, on advice from military sources, following his expose on the payments that Malawi Defence Force (MDF) made to businessman Zuneth Sattar, a fraud suspect under the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) probe.

Vitusi Gregory Gondwe

“This is not just about legal threats, which I was prepared to face head-on. Yesterday, top government officials confirmed that the MDF intended to ‘arrest’ me for allegedly ‘endangering state security’—a vague and ominous accusation.

“Given the potential for my situation to be ‘accidentalised’ with a seemingly plausible explanation posthumously, I have heeded the advice to protect myself. In this line of work, death can be disguised as an accident, and no hospital can revive a life once lost,” Gondwe wrote on his Facebook Page.

In a statement, MISA Malawi Chairperson Golden Matonga says the media body engaged the Army Commander General Paul Velentino Phiri and the Attorney General (AG) Honourable Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda on the matter and they have both assured them that there are no plans to arrest Gondwe or intimidate him for writing the story.

“We hope and trust that these assurances are true and sincere.

“We would like to remind government bodies and all citizens that threats on journalists are retrogressive and a threat to democracy.

“We believe that if MDF or any other concerned parties have an issue with the media, they should use proper channels to raise such issues, but military interrogations and threats are not among those channels,” says Matonga in a statement.

He adds that threats on Gondwe’s life have a chilling effect on journalists and the media fraternity.

“As a democracy, Malawi should not slide back to the era of heavy-handedness on media and critical voices.
We will continue engaging the leadership at MDF and the office of the Attorney General to ensure the safety of Gondwe and a free and conducive media operating environment,” he concludes.

In April 2022, police also detained journalist Gondwe after refusing to disclose source of his information that laid bare that Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda had allowed the government to make payments to Sattar.

This was despite his public statement terminating all of Sattar’s contracts with the government and restricting any payment on the same.

Previously, President Lazarus Chakwera pledged that no journalist would be arrested or harassed as long as he is the president of Malawi.

“We must each regulate ourselves to ensure that any time a journalist publishes something or a social commentator says something, we never react in a manner that infringes on their freedom to do so.

“This principle of self-restraint applies to me, every public official, every agency of the state, and every citizen. Freedom of the press and freedom of expression means that from time to time someone will write or say things that offend or embarrass us, but that does not give any of us the license to deal with them.

“We too can write and say something to defend ourselves, and if we feel our name and reputation have been unjustly defamed, we can even complain to regulatory bodies and the courts that follow strict rules of justice, but we must never seek to harm those who offend us in this way or try to deprive them of their freedom through illegal searches, seizures, arrests, or invasive acts like hacking, harassment, and cyberbullying. These things have no place in a free country,” Chakwera said.