US embassy cable - 04LILONGWE458

THE MEDIA ON ELECTION DAY

Identifier: 04LILONGWE458
Wikileaks: View 04LILONGWE458 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2004-05-28 05:02:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PGOV KPAO KDEM MI Elections Media Parliament Political President
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


 
UNCLAS LILONGWE 000458 
 
SIPDIS 
 
For AF/PD and AF/S 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KPAO, KDEM, MI, Elections, Media, Parliament, Political, President 
SUBJECT: THE MEDIA ON ELECTION DAY 
 
REF: (A) 03 Lilongwe 1202 
 
     (B) Lilongwe 445 and previous 
     (C) Lilongwe 452 and previous 
 
1. Summary: Presidential and parliamentary elections in 
Malawi left one radio station shut down and four of its 
staff members in police custody for airing an `inflammatory 
interview' with an opposition leader who was disputing 
election results.  A journalist from another private radio 
station was arrested and charged for broadcasting a false 
elections-related story.  A third independent radio station 
was stopped from broadcasting public feedback of the 
elections as authorities calmed tempers and emotions in the 
aftermath of the May 20 elections. End Summary. 
 
2. The Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) Radio was shut 
down on May 23, and four of its reporters were arrested for 
airing an "inflammatory interview" with opposition 
Mgwirizano Coalition spokesperson Dr. Kholiwe Mkandawire. It 
is alleged that Dr. Mkandawire suggested that Blanytre's 
airport could be closed which would have barred visiting 
dignitaries from attending President Bingu Wa Mutharika's 
inauguration.  Dr. Mkandawire is also reported to have said 
the Malawi Defense Force (MDF) would intervene if there was 
rigging by the ruling United Democratic Front.  The MDF 
immediately denied the claim and vowed to remain apolitical. 
Two of the arrested MIJ reporters were released the same day 
and the other two have since been released on bail.  The 
radio station is still closed and guarded by police. (Note: 
MIJ radio's clashes with authorities are not new. The Malawi 
Communications Regulatory Authority previously threatened to 
withdraw the radio station's broadcasting license because it 
was airing political news bulletins, which is, according to 
MACRA, not permitted under MIJ's community radio license. 
End note.) 
 
3.  On election day, a journalist from independent Capital 
Radio was arrested for broadcasting a "false and malicious" 
story that alleged a senior traditional authority had been 
caught with stuffed ballot boxes. A retraction of the story 
and an apology aired by the radio station did not stop the 
police from arresting the journalist and pressing charges of 
broadcasting material likely to cause a breach of peace. The 
journalist was released on bail the following day.  The 
Malawi Police Service was also reported to have stopped 
another independent radio station, Power 101 FM, from 
broadcasting the views on the elections on a call-in 
program. 
 
4.  Comment. Malawi's elections were marred from the start 
by the bias of the state-run radio and television.  The 
arrests of journalists from private media, while troubling, 
did not affect voting or election day turnout. End comment. 
 
Dougherty 

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