Malawi: Independent Radio station owner freed from jail

radioSympathizers and well-wisher from Soza village in Mulanje district have come to the rescue of 21 year old Gabriel Kondesi who was arrested on grounds that he operated a community radio station without a license.

He was sentenced by the Mulanje Second grade Magistrate court to 10 months Imprisonment with Hard Labour (IHL), after he had failed to pay a fine of MK50, 000 (about US$360).

The arrest of Kondesi, who dropped out of school when he was in standard 7, attracted the attention of villagers and other sympathizers, who raised about MK14, 000 (about US$100) to have him released from jail where he had stayed for over four days from 16 October 2009. His father too is reported to have sold some of his property such as a Television set and music equipment in order to rescue his son.

Among the well-wishers was Gospel Kazako, the Managing Director of Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) a privately owned radio station based in the central part of Malawi. Kazako is reported to have reimbursed the money spent by Gabriels father. As broadcasters, we need to support fellow broadcasters when they are in problems. As a radio-man, I am here to appreciate that this boy is a genius, he told The Daily Times newspaper.

After his release, Kondesi said People got used to my radio since I started broadcasting about three years ago, he told The Daily Times.

He was arrested on 14 October 2009 after it was found out that he owned and operated a radio station called Pachikweza without a license from the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA). He operated the radio from Soza village in the district at 98.5 FM, using a set of three small transistor radios to penetrate the airwaves. The radio reportedly aired phone-in programmes.

Meanwhile, commentators have described the boy as a genius and have further argued that the police should not have arrested him, but rather they should have cautioned him and later advise him to have his radio licensed.

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