Malawi Police Accused of Hacking Website of Investigative Media Group

Malawi Police Accused of Hacking Website of Investigative Media Group (News Central TV)

The Malawi Police Service has been accused of hacking a website for the Platform for Investigative Journalism, according to the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Malawi (MISA-Malawi), a monitoring group.

The charge comes after the news organisation announced on Thursday that its website had been hacked. The allegation has been refuted by police, who claim the organisation lacks evidence.

The website hacking occurred more than a week after Gregory Gondwe, the Platform for Investigative Journalism’s managing director, was detained. They wanted to know where he got the documents he used in a narrative alleging government corruption and how he got them.

Police were unable to get Gondwe to divulge the information, but they did seize his phone and laptop and compelled him to reveal passwords.

Due to international pressure, primarily from the US and British embassies in Malawi, Gondwe was unconditionally released four hours later. A day later, the police retrieved his belongings.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa in Malawi (MISA-Malawi), a watchdog group, said in a statement that it believes the hacking was deliberate, but that given the circumstances, it cannot rule out the involvement of state operatives.

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Teresa Ndanga, the chairperson for MISA-Malawi, told reporters; “This hacking incident happened a few days after the managing director of the Platform was arrested, his gadgets seized and was forced to hand over his passwords. So, they essentially had access to everything that Gregory has – his private life, his work life and everything else. And that coincidence in itself is conviction enough on our part to conclude or to suspect that police are involved,” she said.

Ndanga believes it is troubling that police officers, who should be at the vanguard of the fight against cybercrime, have been linked to conduct that make them attractive suspects.

The Electronic Transactions and CyberSecurity Act of 2016 makes hacking a criminal in Malawi. Fines and seven years in prison are possible penalties for violators.

As a result, MISA-Malawi has requested that the government investigate and prosecute everyone involved in the incident.

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Harry Namwaza, deputy spokesperson for the Malawi Police Service, told newsmen that MISA-Malawi’s allegation lacks evidence.

“Actually as police, you actually know that we have a mandate to summon any person we feel that will be important in our inquiries and the investigation was legally binding. So, this is why we are saying basing the accusation on that, is not substantial in terms of evidence,” he said.

Namwaza said the investigation of Gondwe is still ongoing.

“Interrogating him was one of the stages of our investigations we are conducting because he is one of the people we know that can help in the investigations. But it has nothing to do with the hacking.”

Namwaza says police have yet to start investigating the hacking incident because they have not received a complaint from the Platform for Investigative Journalism. Gregory Gondwe says his group is still assessing what happened.

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“We haven’t complained because we are looking at what has been happening,” he said. “The police, to us, are the main suspects because of what has led to the hacking. The first was the arrest, the confiscation of the IT gadgets, and the hacking of our website. How do you expect me to go to the same police station, and lodge a complaint?”

Gondwe says, so far, his media organisation has engaged independent IT experts to help track down the hackers.

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