Reporters Without Borders today expressed its concern about the death of freelance journalist Don Kulapani on 8 August during the hold-up of a bar in the capital, and called on the authorities to conduct a full investigation into this killing, which has coincided with attacks on journalists by the ruling party.
"We ask you to fully clarify the circumstances of the journalist’s death and to establish that it was not linked to the exercise of his profession", Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to Interior Minister Monjeza Maluza. "The fact that it coincides with recent attacks on journalists by the UDF’s youth league is troubling, to say the least", Ménard said in the letter, which requested that Reporters Without Borders be kept informed about the investigation’s progress.
A freelancer who used to work for The Chronicle newspaper, Kulapani was in a bar in the capital, Lilongwe, on 8 August when four armed men entered and opened fire, hitting the journalist. They then stabbed him many times. The assailants took cases of beer, musical equipment and cash from the till before making off. Kulapani died as a result of these injuries.
The journalist’s death comes soon after the release of a statement by the
ruling UDF denying news media claims that it had a unit tasked with silencing investigative journalists who "embarrass" the government. In early August, the National Media Institute of South Africa claimed to have discovered a UDF plot to attack journalists of the Daily Times, Weekly Chronicle, Pride and BBC for having accused the UDF of intending to change the constitution to allow President Bakili Muluzi to run for a third term in 2004.
Young activists have been implicated in beatings of journalists who support the opposition party, especially journalists working for the Chronicle, Kulapani’s former employer. The Daily Times had already alleged in November 2001 that the UDF had complied a list of journalists who "discredit the party" and that it intended to use its youth wing to attack them.