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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Malawi's media urges restraint
Bingu wa Mutharika
The opposition says it will contest the poll results

On the day Malawi's president is sworn in, the country's media urges restraint following riots in the commercial capital, Blantyre, after the delayed announcement of Thursday's elections results.

The ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) party candidate, Bingu wa Mutharika, was declared the winner, defeating four other candidates - including opposition leader Gwanda Chakuamba - despite opposition claims that the elections were rigged and a refusal to accept the results.

"The nation has made its choice, although there are people who may not be happy with the outcome of the election," an editorial in The Daily Times is quick to declare.

Concerns over violence

"Let's have an end to the contest and get on with the business of government," the paper urges, calling on the president-elect "to rein in" some of his "overzealous supporters".

"It will do nothing to uphold your own dignity if you let ruffians get away with impunity."

Violence is also the main concern of the writers in the Malawi Nation.

"The violence and looting of shops that followed the announcement of election results .. was uncalled for," says an editorial.

Violence should be avoided at all costs since it just brings more misery
Malawi Nation

The paper calls on the leaders of all political parties to urge their followers to avoid violence.

"Violence should be avoided at all costs since it just brings more misery."

Writing in the same paper, commentator Idriss Ali Nassah calls on the 70-year old former World Bank economist - said to have been hand-picked by the outgoing president - to prove quickly that he is up to the job.

"If there was ever a leader so controversially chosen, a president assuming power when political opinion in the country is so sharply divided, then it is you in 2004."

"Now that you have won power, it is obligatory that you start to assert your authority immediately to erase any doubts that you have no political spine of your own".

Media under fire

Meanwhile, international observers said the elections were marred by serious shortcomings, including errors with the electoral roll and the state media bias towards the ruling UDF party.

Malawian independent Capital Radio reported on Sunday that the police shut down a private radio station, MIJ 90.3, and arrested four journalists - including its station manager Evans Masamba - for interviewing an opposition spokesman who threatened to call on the army to "take over" if Mutharika was declared president.

The station's director James N'gombe told AFP news agency that four of its reporters were arrested for broadcasting what police said was an "inflammatory interview" with opposition spokesperson Kholiwe Mkandawire.

He said Mkandawire had also threatened to send supporters to surround the airport and the stadium in Blantyre where the swearing-in ceremony was due to be held.

The military would always remain neutral and not interfere in the electoral process
Army spokesman on Capital Radio

Capital Radio reported that the National Media Institute of Southern Africa, Namisa, "had expressed shock" over the event and called for their immediate release.

The radio further reported that the Malawi army rejected claims by MIJ 90.3 that it was "angered by the current election process".

It quoted an army spokesman, Clement Namangale, as saying the military "would always remain neutral and not interfere in the electoral process".

According to the radio, "Namangale urged individuals and all stakeholders in the electoral process to refrain from making inflammatory statements that may incite violence".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




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