Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), has commended the gesture by UTM’s President apology over the assault of a Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) stringer George Banda.
In a statement, the group’s chairperson Timothy Mtambo, hailed the move by Saulos Chilima, to compensate the journalist and his commitment to respect and ensure that media freedom flourishes in the country.
Mtambo observed that the intention to compensate the reporter is welcome, and a lesson to all perpetrators of political violence.
“As HRDC, we salute the UTM leader for such a rare, humble act a gesture that has almost been absent in those in the ruling elite, who have often greeted their parties’ spearheaded attacks on critics of the regime with executive arrogance,” reads the statement
In the apology to Media Institute for Southern Africa, Chilima indicated that findings from his aides pointed the incident to a case of mistaken identity, a statement which the rights body expressed concern as it implied that the violence should have been condoned if the identity was correct.
“To that extent we view that the statement has not only been insensitive, but also propagating a dangerous message that violence against all correct identities would be acceptable or tolerated.”
HRDC then reminded all political leaders and Malawians of goodwill that all forms of political violence is unacceptable and must not to be tolerated.
It also appealed to the UTM leadership to go beyond the apology and ensure that justice prevails on the matter, and that the perpetrators face appropriate disciplinary action.
While accepting the apology, government condemned the remark by the Vice President that the violence against the journalist is regrettable because he was not the target.
In a statement, Minister of Information Henry Mussa described the assertion as worrying as it implied that in the view of the UTM leader, violence against all their targets is fine and acceptable.
Mussa challenged the UTM Leader to mention the individual mistaken for Banda and provide the reasons why they deserved to be harmed.
On its part, HRDC expressed concern with government’s selective approach over such matters, especially when those implicated are ruling DPP cadets even in cases where there has been overwhelming evidence implicating them.
The organisation cited recent spates of political violence by DPP cadets attacking opponents and critics; yet the government has chosen to either keep quite or protect the perpetrators of such barbaric acts.
“This is unacceptable and it must stop. We hold that the DPP government does not have a moral integrity to advise others on issues of violence whilst they are tolerating the same within their party.”
HRDC viewed government's statement as not only selective justice; but also hypocrisy of the highest order and urged it to be exemplary and walk the talk