Police in Malawi have arrested a nurse for allegedly insulting president Lazarus Chakwera during a WhatsApp debate on governance.
The 39-year-old nurse identified as Chidawawa Mainje is said to have used an expletive to express his dissatisfaction with the president’s regime. Mainje observed that the president had done nothing to improve the lives of the people who voted for her.
Police say the nurse will be charged with cyber harassment and could be jailed for up to five years and a fine of $2,500 if found guilty.
Mainje will be charged for contravening the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act 2016, which prohibits exchanging insults online.’
“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 offence. That’s why we have arrested him,” Harry Namwaza, deputy spokesperson for the Malawi Police Service said.
Malawian authorities have intensified a crackdown on cyberbullying although free speech advocates claim police are violating freedom of expression. More than 15 people have been arrested for contravening the legislation by speaking ill of government officials and associates since Chakwera took power two years ago.
“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,” Said Michael Kayiyatsa executive director for the rights group, Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation. “So, the best that police should have done is simply to provide advice, but this is somebody expressing their views.”.
President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera came to power in 2020, replacing Peter Mutharika. A theology graduate, Chakwera served as pastor and leader of the Malawi Assemblies of God church.