BLANTRYE - The Malawian government and civil society organisations within the country on Sunday slammed the SABC for airing a story where an analyst claimed that there was a Malawi connection in the Kenyan terror attack that killed at least 21 people last week.
Izak Khomo, who was described a “producer” and “analyst” at the SABC by the country’s local Saturday newspaper Malawi News, said the country was implicated in the Kenyan terror attacks because it had connections with Al-Shabaab which claimed responsibility for the attacks at a luxury hotel in the East African country.
The Malawi Civil Society Led Black Economic Empowerment Movement (MaBlem) penned a scathing letter to the SABC on Sunday demanding that it clarify remarks made by Khomo which caused mass hysteria within Malawi’s media industry.
MaBlem has also demanded the SABC to provide evidence on the country’s links with terror group Al-Shabaab or else MaBlem would seek legal redress on the matter and call for the channel to be blocked in Malawi if it did not receive a response within the next two weeks.
The remarks, according to government insiders, were not only reckless, but had the potential to put Malawian citizens' lives at risk around the world.
Malawi has a growing number of expats in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), East Africa, Europe and the United States and officials are concerned that being linked to terrorism might hurt the country economically and threaten diplomatic relations and security.
The letter from MaBlem read: “We write to demand that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) clarify or retract the remarks made by an expert on terrorism linking Malawians especially Muslim Yaos to terrorism. The remarks have negatively affected our nation's image and reputation beyond our borders as links to terrorism is a serious allegation. As Malawians we cannot keep quiet when such allegations are being made by such a reputable broadcaster without any authentication, a thing which has the effect of making the whole world believing the assertions as true.”
The organisation was also concerned that the remarks by Khomo at the SABC had the ability to cause hate towards Malawians.
MaBlem further challenged the SABC to further take to task their so-called expert.
The SABC carries content to other African states in SADC and other African regions through a platform called Channel Africa, giving it an audience that reaches millions of people in the continent.
The organisation has since requested the ministry of information to order the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to block all SABC channels in Malawi should the latter not issue a disclaimer or retraction and apology within the deadline.
Making further demands from the South African broadcaster, MaBlem said: “The SABC must carry out a full retraction and apology to the Malawi government, the people of Malawi, Malawi Moslems and above all the Yao tribe. The South African Government must join Malawi in this demand as we have so many Yao Moslems that travel to South Africa and the said report might create hate and animosity towards them and even suffer attacks. Malawians are already at risk of xenophobic attack, and the assertions made might fuel further attacks on Malawians.”
The country’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology Henry Mussa condemned reports linking Malawi to the terror attacks.
"It is the considered [the] opinion of the government of Malawi that the article represents ill intentions against mother Malawi and the public interest. We condemn this kind of journalism in its strongest terms and we demand an immediate retraction of the story in its entirety,” he said.
Neo Momodu, the spokesperson of the SABC commented: "The SABC has noted media reports and enquiries. We are currently investigating the matter, before responding to the relevant stakeholders.”