|Wikileaks:||View 04LILONGWE458 at Wikileaks.org|
|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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