Journalists working for the privately owned media and opposition party politicians were at risk of arrest. Prisons were overcrowded and lacked adequate facilities.
The political wrangling that started in 2004 when President Bingu wa Mutharika broke away from the United Democratic Front (UDF) party continued to affect government programmes that required parliamentary approval. Approval of the national budget by parliament was held up by political party agendas.
"Maula prison, built to accommodate 700 detainees, housed about 1,800..."
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS remained high, significantly affecting farming and leading to a reduction in food production. Food security in Malawi continued to deteriorate as a result of declining productivity, rising population and the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. More than 86 per cent of the population had limited access to basic health and education services.
Prisons were overcrowded and lacked adequate facilities. For example, Kachere prison, in which about 170 juveniles were detained at the beginning of December, only had one toilet and one bathroom. Maula prison, built to accommodate 700 detainees, housed about 1,800 at the beginning of December.
Prisons faced food shortages, leading to high levels of malnutrition. Although prisoners suffering from HIV/AIDS received anti-retroviral treatment, they were not given the necessary supplementary diet.
Freedom of expression – journalists
- In February police charged journalist Mike Chipalasa and editor James Mphande of the privately owned Daily Times with “publishing false news likely to lead to a breach of public order”, an offence carrying up to six months’ imprisonment. This followed the publication of an article on 14 January which quoted the leader of the opposition Malawi Congress Party, John Tembo, accusing the government of working with foreign experts to manipulate the 2009 elections in favour of the President’s Democratic Progressive Party. The two journalists were released on bail.
Arrest of opposition politicians
Several key opposition politicians were arrested and opposition parties faced harassment.
- Former President Bakili Muluzi, a presidential candidate for the UDF in elections scheduled for 2009, was arrested in Lilongwe on 25 May and accused of involvement in a coup plot. He was charged with treason and placed under house arrest. Before Bakili Muluzi’s arrest, eight former senior security officials and politicians who served under him were arrested on similar allegations. All were granted bail.
- The trial of Vice-President Cassim Chilumpha, who was arrested on treason charges in April 2006, continued. The prosecution produced no evidence that he had attempted to assassinate the President. He remained on bail.