Beating of Malawi Photo-Journalist condemned

 MalawiA vicious action by a Malawian senior parliamentary officer on one of the country’s female media practitioners who was in line of duty has astonished many and attracted the wrath of media organs, an association of photographers and Newstime Africa online publication being the latest.

Thoko Chikondi, a photojournalist at Nation Publications Limited and Photographers Association of Malawi (Photama) member, was on Thursday May 30 2013 subjected to verbal insults and physical attack by chief security officer at the Malawi National Assembly Youngson Chilinda right at the parliament.

Chikondi met her fate while on duty as she was taking pictures of a team of consumer rights activists who went to the Malawi Parliament to present a petition and to the surprise of many, Chilinda attacked the defenceless young female photojournalist, in the process making the photographer lose camera lens cover as the assaulter seemed to also have targeted at destroying the gadget.

Condemning the unpleasant encounter, Photographers Association of Malawi (Photama) says it is deeply amazed that Malawians can be subjected to brutal actions that were buried through the ballot paper two decades ago, and coming from a senior security officer working for an organ like parliament after retiring from the country’s disciplined defence force at a senior post could.

In a statement made available to NewsTime Africa the association notes with regret that the barbaric action by the security officer is not only strange but also a violation of the rights and freedom of expression.

“Photojournalists are professionals tasked with bearing witness to matters of national importance and public interest and that was exactly what Thoko was trying to do- discharging her professional duties, and this task is exceptionally imperative when there are touchy issues such as the one the consumers association was performing.

“And just like other professionals, photojournalists have a public duty to carry out and they should, at every point, be provided maximum protection, which in this case, Mr. Chilinda, as a retired soldier, should have been the first to champion,” reads in part the statement titled ‘Condemnation of the beating of Thoko Chikondi, Nation Publications Limited Photojournalist and PHOTAMA member’ and signed by its president Lucky Zerembe Mkandawire.

And in an interview, the Photama president said he did not see anything wrong in what the photojournalist was doing as she was just discharging her duties and there was no threat to national security to warrant the public and discreditable reaction.

“It is sad that at 20 in a democratic nation and 50 in an independent state some people could strangely and freely beat women on duty at a public place like parliament.

“As Photama what we are saying is that no photojournalist in a nation that prides itself as a democracy like Malawi, should ever be beaten up for doing his or her professional,” charged a disappointed Mkandawire, adding; “Looking at the two personalities, the place and time the action took place it is no surprise that many people are following up the matter.”

And on its part, NewsTime Africa has called upon Photama and Misa Malawi Chapter to pursue the matter accordingly so that violence against media personalities could be checked.

“We at NewsTime Africa greatly condemn the un warranted action by the parliamentary security officer and further ask the victim’s employer and the associations she subscribe to, not to let the case be spiked,” said News Time Africa Chief International Correspondent Peter Chipanga.

The National Media Institute of Malawi also condemned the action and queried the Malawi Parliament to discipline the perpetrator.

The Malawi National Assembly is meeting for the 2013/14 fiscal budget.

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