Government’s Chief Legal adviser, the Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda has declared ‘war’ on journalists. He started his ‘war’ on Monday by arresting scribe Gregory Gondwe after he refused to disclose his source on a story that Gondwe published on his Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ) website on March 30, 2022.
The story was about Chakaka’s legal opinion which allowed the government to pay billions of kwachas to Zuneth ‘Satan’ Sattar who is under probe for corruption in both Malawi and the United Kingdom. Currently Sattar is on bail after being arrested by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK.
Gondwe was picked up by Police in Blantyre on Monday and had his electronic gadgets confiscated by Police in order to force him to reveal his sources.
World over and in the journalism profession, journalists protect their sources and they cannot reveal them even with a bullet in their head!
It is shameful that the very man who is supposed to protect and follow the law, is the same man who is abusing his authority and starts ‘killing’ journalism by intimidating journalists. This man is Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda, the sitting Attorney General.
Writing on his Facebook page after being released without charge, Gondwe said his arrest comes after a futile attempt by Nyirenda to force him to reveal his source on the story.
“I was introduced to the applicant of the search warrant S/Superintendent Henry Willy Kalungu (who at the regional police offices in Chichiri where I was taken, everyone was calling him [Crime Suputu] Crime Supt). The other person in the vehicle was Superintendent Kamisa, apparently the Regional Head of Criminal Investigations. They told me they had come for two things; to confiscate my electronic gadgets (laptops, phones and computers) as well as to ask me, to tell them, who my source was, that facilitated the publication of a story we published on March 30.”
“I told them I could not speak without my lawyer, while fully aware that this was a futile attempt that started with Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda who had threatened to take this course of action when I could not tell him who my source was, prior to publishing the story,” writes Gondwe.
The revelation has not gone down well with journalists in the country who have likened the situation to a ‘war waged on us all by Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda’.
The path that Nyirenda has taken will not end well with him, if any comments on a professional journalists group are anything to go by.
We cannot reveal the names of the journalists involved in the discussion on the professional group as it is a ‘closed’ group for professional journalists only.
“If the Honourable Attorney General wants to be clever and start hounding us to disclose sources of where we get our information, then he should be prepared to surrender his resignation letter to the President the time we start revealing sources because he will be on top of that list,” writes one journalist.
“There is a reason why we protect our sources, Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda and his friend Steven Kayuni, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) inclusive. If he is really sure this is the route he wants to take, then he will be very sorry because he will top the list of our sources together with Kayuni, these boys are very childish. We all know who leaks these documents, Thabo knows, Kayuni knows,” wrote another journalist.
Lawyer Ayuba James, representing Gondwe in the matter described Gondwe’s arrest as ‘part of the government’s current biggest project: to find a reason, at all cost, for firing Martha Chizuma (ACB Director General).
“The scheme is very big. Very wide. And traps are all over the place for Martha to step in. It is their hope that the document about payment to Sattar will be discovered to have been released by Martha or someone close to her so they can immediately open up a case against her for breach of Oath of Secrecy. No government has ever been agitated by anything as our government is today with anything that is against the interests of Sattar. It is, essentially, a government in a single man’s pocket,” wrote James on his Facebook page.
Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda has started a ‘war’ with journalists, will he finish it? Let us all wait and see.