Social networks and TV signals down after close of polls in Malawi
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores the fact that, on the evening of 21 May, shortly after the close of polls in Malawi’s presidential, parliamentary and local council elections, the broadcast signals of two TV channels were interrupted and the social network platforms Facebook and WhatsApp became inaccessible
These interruptions hampered the flow of information about the polling and vote-count at a crucial moment. The voting itself passed off without any major incident but the outcome of the presidential race has yet to be announced and is still in the balance.
The TV channels whose signals were interrupted were Times Television and Zodiak Broadcasting, both of which are regarded as sympathetic to the opposition. The latter’s transmission cables were deliberately vandalized, preventing it from broadcasting result estimates after the close of polls, the owner said.
RSF has learned that both social network access and the TV channel broadcast signals were restored during the course of the night, after the two channels protested to electoral commission president Jane Ansah.
“Blocking social networks and preventing media from broadcasting while an election is under way constitutes a grave obstruction to the flow of information and undermines the election’s credibility and transparency,” RSF said.
President Peter Mutharika is seeking another term but has had to face a strong challenge from his vice-president, Saulos Chilima, and from Lazarus Chakwera, the leader of the Malawi Congress Party, the country’s main opposition party.
The government issued a brief statement on 22 May denying that it intended to shut down Internet services and calling on Internet Service Providers to “ensure that their services are running efficiently.”
Malawi is ranked 68th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.