Blogger scoops news of Malawi President's death, is detained and harassed by police

Marilyn Terrell of National Geographic tells Boing Boing,

My pal Andrew Evans who blogs for National Geographic Traveler just happened to be in the capital of Malawi yesterday when the president was rushed to the hospital. The local media insisted he was in stable condition but people were saying he had died, so Andrew stopped by the hospital to see what he could find out. The hospital was oddly quiet, although it had been buzzing with police earlier. Andrew figured something was fishy and starting taking photos of the unprotected hospital until some plainclothes police noticed. They made him delete his photos and demanded that he hand over his iPhone but he refused and kept tweeting, and tweeted the first report of Bingu wa Mutharika's death, which wasn't officially admitted until 24 hours later.

Read Andrew's account, and view his photos, here.

(PHOTO: Andrew Evans. "At Lilongwe airport, Malawians listen to news of their president's death.")


  1. So this person posted that the President was dead, without actually knowing that the President had died. It might have been more honest to post about the rumours he was hearing.

    1. Well… he also observed that the President’s supposed location had no official security. He certainly had reason to suppose something was up. I agree, posting a death he didn’t know for certain was overdoing it. (If nothing else, it’s bad manners.  Let families be informed first, for Murphy’s sake.)

  2. Malawi police harassment seems a lot nicer than U.S. police harassment. No mace, beatings, or kettling here?

  3. Many African countries have laws against the photography of public buildings, which includes hospitals. They often have very legitimate reasons dealing with internal security and those who wish to overthrow the government.

    In general it’s a good idea to respect the laws and culture of the country in which you are a guest. One man’s harassment is another man’s legitimate enforcement of the laws of the nation.

    1. I agree that it’s a good idea to respect the laws and culture of the country you’re in. That said, a bad law is a bad law everywhere. There are no legitimate reasons for laws against the photography of public buildings. It’s not actually in any way useful as a security precaution. It just gives extra excuses to the police when harassing innocents.

      (The same police behaviour exists in my country, and it’s just as stupid here.)

      1. Bad law based on your cultural  standards which you seem to want to impose on others. We should respect their laws,  well, until it gets in the way of a juicy Twitter post, at which point we should freely ignore them?

        Just because your experience in whatever profession you’re in does not give you reason to see why allowing photographs of public infrastructure is a bad thing doesn’t mean that it can’t lead to bad things. How many years have you spent living in Malawi? It’s one of the least  developed nations on earth. It’s not well off like Gabon or Botswana. I’m going to cut them some slack when it comes to being paranoid about their very limited infrastructure. They don’t have the luxury of just ordering up another hospital should some splinter group decide to destroy it as part of an attempt to overthrow the government.  It’s amazing that people from rich nations think it is ok to go to some of the poorest places in the world and then whine about not being above the laws of the land. In places like Malawi, being able to tweet photos or not being able to tweet photos is way down on the list of priorities and I’d imagine most people in the country value having a hospital over foreigners tweeting.

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