|JANUARY 19, 2003|
Maganizo Mazeze, MIJ FM
Police in Blantyre, Malawi's commercial capital, arrested Mazeze, a journalist for MIJ FM, a radio station run by the Malawi Institute of Journalism. Mazeze was charged with "broadcasting material likely to cause public alarm and unrest." The charge stemmed from a January 18 interview that Mazeze conducted on air with a man who claimed to have been attacked by vampires.
Rumors that vampires have been attacking impoverished Malawians have circulated throughout southern Malawi since late 2002. In response, President Bakili Muluzi ordered the arrest of anyone who spreads such stories. Muluzi accused the political opposition of trying to undermine his government by propagating the rumors.
Police detained Mazeze overnight. The next day, a Blantyre court dismissed the charges against him on procedural grounds because police had failed to obtain an arrest warrant. Officers obtained a warrant on January 22 for the same charge but did not arrest Mazeze.
Mazeze appeared in court on January 24. The case has since been referred to the director of public prosecution, but local journalists said they do not expect authorities to take up the case.
JULY 7, 2003
Daniel Nyirenda, The Nation
Nyirenda, a photojournalist for the independent daily The Nation, was attacked by members of the youth wing of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), known as the "Young Democrats."
Nyirenda was covering a UDF party convention in Blantyre and began taking pictures of a fight that had broken out among delegates near the entrance gates of the convention hall. A group of youths then beat him and dragged him into the mud. Local sources said the attackers broke Nyirenda's digital camera and stole another camera. Nyirenda was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the assault.
According to The Nation, Malawian President Bakili Muluzi called the incident "unfortunate" but claimed that enemies of the ruling party had perpetrated the attack. UDF Deputy Publicity Secretary and Presidential Affairs Minister Ken Lipenga later admitted that party members had carried out the assault and promised better security for journalists at future UDF conventions.