MISA Malawi would like to inform its membership and the general public that the Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works Honourable Charles Mchacha has apologised for verbally attacking and intimidating Nation Publications Limited (NPL) journalist Bobby Kabango.
Honourable Mchacha used all sorts of swearwords in a recorded phone conversation with Mr. Kabango who was pursuing a story on how the Deputy Minister allegedly acquired public land in Limbe, Blantyre.
On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, Honourable Mchacha went to NPL offices in Blantyre to apologise for his behaviour. Honourable Mchacha apologised in the presence of MISA Malawi National Governing Council (NGC) member Mandy Pondani, Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) Chair Robert Mkwezalamba and NPL officials.
During the meeting, Mchacha said he respects journalists and appreciates the role the media plays in a democracy.
“It was sad that we failed to understand each other and handle the situation well. So, I am here to apologise to my friend [ Bobby] and the entire Nation management for the words I uttered to Bobby Kabango,” Mchacha said.
Both Mr Kabango and NPL Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alfred Ntonga accepted the apology.
Speaking during the meeting, Pondani appealed to the minister, other ministers and government officials to be exemplary and uphold and respect human rights, including media freedom and freedom of expression.
“You hold senior public positions and your conduct should befit those positions. As journalists we also work to promote public good and we want to feel safe when doing our work. It’s intimidating and scary when senior government officials attack instead of protecting us,” Pondani said.
MISA Malawi wrote Honourable Mchacha demanding a public apology for verbally attacking and intimidating Mr. Kabango.
The Chapter also asked Minister of Information, Honourable Mark Botomani, to disassociate government from Honourable Mchacha’s conduct and assure the nation that Honourable Mchacha’s actions were not a reflection of government policy to threaten and intimidate journalists working to uphold principles of transparency and accountability in a nation whose constitution guarantees media freedom.
Honourable Mchacha’s actions were a violation of media freedom and freedom of expression and could be construed as government attempts to silence journalists in the country.