By Henry K Mhango | The AfricaPaper
Blantyre, Malawi - Shock, disbelief, pain, grief, confusion, and devastation has locked the Malawi’s media fraternity following an accidental death of the country’s prominent freelance journalist and media freedom activist Raphael Tenthani.
Tentahni 43, who until his death was a correspondent for the BBC and Associated Press died in a car crash on Saturday on his way back to Blantyre from Tcheu district in the central region where he was visiting his mother.
His two children Raymond and Raphael, and his pall, Amos Phiri….. Who was driving the vehicle survived the accident with injuries and they are all admitted at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre.
He was a respected columnist (the Muckraker) for the local Sunday Newspaper, Nyasa Times Malawi online publication and the Associated Press News Agency. His column used to give constructive criticisms on policy, governance and other issues.
Meanwhile, Malawi President Mutharika said Tenthani’s death is a big loss to the media fraternity and the entire nation.
“I will remember him as a man of immense talent, who courageously sought ways of making a positive contribution to the discourse of a national unity and development,” says Mr Mutharika in a press statement released on Sunday.
He added “Through his Muckraking column in the Sunday Times, Mr. Tenthani liked to argue with charm and delight. He will long be remembered for his eloquence, humor, warmth, progressive ideals, intellectual heft, toughness and concerns on issues of national unity.”
As a journalist for both local and international media, Tenthani received a number of awards in 2010 which include the Media Institute of Southern Africa – MISA Best Columnist, Associated Press Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) award by the United Nations, and the Nyasa Times Human Rights and Democracy award.
Journalists and Media institutions across Africa and abroad have also expressed their grief to the untimely death of Tenthani.
In a statement released Monday, the Media Institute of Southern Africa – MISA- says Malawi has lost an instrumental defender of media freedom and freedom of expression.
“Tenthani will not only be remembered by many as a senior journalist and editor, but one of the most respected and inspirational writers in Malawi. In Tenthani’s death, Malawi’s media has lost a pillar of media freedom, a prolific writer, a mentor and a friendly colleague,” said MISA Malawi Chairperson Mr. Thom Khanje.
On its part, the BBC says it is deeply shocked with its correspondent death.
“We’ve learned with great shock and sadness that our long serving Malawi Correspondent Raphael Tenthani has died. Raphael was a brilliant writer and journalist and reported not just for the BBC, but for the Associated Press. He was also a popular newspaper columnist at home. He will be greatly missed by the team here at BBC” says the BBC statement.
1n 2010, he was attacked by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party Spokesperson Mr Nicholas Dausi (head of the National Intelligence Bureau) for writing a muckraking column that was sympathetic to the then ostracized Vice President Joyce Banda, who was facing political Isolation from President Bingu wa Mutharika, Brother to the incumbent President.
In 2005, he reported in a news article that the President had moved out of the presidential palace due to the fear of ghost.
In his article, he sourced the president’s religious affairs adviser, the Rev Malani Mtonga,who had reported that President Bingu wa Mutharika had left the presidential palace because he was hearing “strange noises” and “felt a strange presence hanging around him” at night.
Rev. Mtonga denied making that statement to the press but another independent renowned journalist, Mabvuto Banda had reported the same story in the Nation newspaper.
Both Mr. Tenthani and Mabvuto Banda were arrested at their homes in Blantyre and detained at police headquarters in Lilongwe. He was going to be charged with “publishing false information that is likely to cause [a] breach of peace”.
During the Bingu wa Mutharika administration, he became to target of attacks from the government due to his criticism of Mutharika and freedom of Press.
Tenthani’s house was ransacked by unknown assailant in 2011, following the Malawi protests against the Mutharika administration.
At the height of Mutharika’s crackdown on the press, He was indirectly named in a Press Release to the nation for being critical dated March 9, 2012, which aimed at suppressing the press.
The Press release referred to journalists in the country that referred to Mutharika as “Big Kahuna,”a pejorative nickname that made reference to the President increasingly dictatorial turn.
Tenthani denied that this was being used to refer to Mutharika pejoratively. TAP
The AfricaPaper: Based in Malawi, Henry writes for The AfricaPaper. He has worked for various media organizations including the state Malawi News Agency, the Big Issue Malawi Magazine, Capital Radio Malawi, and International Network of Street News Service (UK). His work has also been published by The Guardian (UK). He covers politics, economy, human rights, environment and development for The AfricaPaper.