Free speech advocates in Malawi have condemned the arrest of a nurse for insulting President Lazarus Chakwera throughout a WhatsApp debate on governance.
Malawi police stated 39-year-old Chidawawa Mainje was charged with cyber harassment and faces as much as 5 years in jail and a high-quality of $2,500 if discovered responsible.
Mainje was arrested after utilizing an expletive on the moment messaging service about how the president has completed nothing to vary the lives of people that voted for him.
Police say Mainje’s arrest is according to the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act 2016, which prohibits insulting somebody on-line.
Harry Namwaza is the deputy spokesperson for the Malawi Police Service.
“You can’t enjoy your freedom or your rights while at the same time you are infringing the rights of others. It doesn’t work like that. There should be a responsibility. So, it’s a criminal offense. That’s why we have arrested him,” Namwaza stated.
The nurse’s arrest comes per week after police within the capital, Lilongwe, arrested a 51-year-old man for allegedly insulting the minister of labor in his WhatsApp group publish.
Michael Kayiyatsa is the manager director for the rights group, Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation.
He stated the arrest is a violation of freedom of expression.
“The guy who was arrested was expressing an opinion which was not favorable to the president. But it’s within his right to express such views, and he is protected by Section 35 of our constitution,” Kayiyatsa said. “So, the best that police should have done is simply to provide advice, but this is somebody expressing their views.”
Kayiyatsa stated there’s a want for cybercrime laws to be reviewed and on the identical time clarified in some sections, including that politicians may use the measure to silence dissenting views.
“Especially Section 86, which is talking about offensive communication that needs to be reviewed,” Kayiyatsa said. “And also, there is need for clarity, because in the absence of clarity, such provisions can be abused to target online users, which is worrisome.”
According to Kayiyatsa, greater than 15 individuals have been arrested for contravening the laws by talking ailing of presidency officers and associates since Chakwera took energy two years in the past.
Another human rights activist, Billy Banda of Malawi Watch, stated he feels the police at the moment are getting used to assist defend the present administration from public criticism.
“The police are not entitled in any way to sound like they are protecting one particular individual,” Banda said. “Are the police able to look back? We had the former president, professor Peter Mutharika. He was insulted. He never in any way arrested or directed anybody to be arrested.”
Namwaza stated authorities are simply reinforcing the regulation, no matter one’s standing in society.
“Of course, people may have different opinions, but we are bound to ensure that laws are being respected, laws are being enforced,” Namwaza said. “So, we are just doing our job.”
The National Organization of Nurses and Midwives in Malawi warned on Sunday that it might stage a nationwide strike if the police didn’t launch Mainje unconditionally.
The chief of the group, nevertheless, introduced later that the group reversed its place, saying it noticed that Mainje was making the remarks in his private capability and never on behalf of the group.
In the meantime, police stated Mainje is predicted to look in courtroom Wednesday.