The Malawi Police Service has been accused of hacking a website for the Platform for Investigative Journalism, according to the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Malawi (MISA-Malawi), a monitoring group.
The charge comes after the news organization announced on Thursday that its website had been hacked. The allegation has been refuted by police, who claim the organization lacks evidence.
The website hacking occurred more than a week after Gregory Gondwe, the Platform for Investigative Journalism’s managing director, was detained. They wanted to know where he got the documents he used in a narrative alleging government corruption and how he got them.
Police were unable to get Gondwe to divulge the information, but they did seize his phone and laptop and compelled him to reveal passwords.
Due to international pressure, primarily from the US and British embassies in Malawi, Gondwe was unconditionally released four hours later. A day later, the police retrieved his belongings.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa in Malawi (MISA-Malawi), a watchdog group, said in a statement that it believes the hacking was deliberate, but that given the circumstances, it cannot rule out the involvement of state operatives.
MISA-chairman, Malawi’s Teresa Ndanga, spoke with VOA via a messaging app.
“This hacking event occurred just days after the Platform’s managing director was detained, his devices confiscated, and he was compelled to hand up his passwords.” As a result, they essentially had access to Gregory’s whole life — his personal life, his professional life, and everything else. “And that coincidence alone is enough for us to conclude or think that the cops are involved,” she continued.
Ndanga believes it is troubling that police officers, who should be at the vanguard of the fight against cybercrime, have been linked to conduct that make them attractive suspects.
The Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act of 2016 makes hacking a criminal in Malawi. Fines and seven years in prison are possible penalties for violators.
As a result, MISA-Malawi has requested that the government investigate and prosecute everyone involved in the incident.
MISA-complaint Malawi’s lacks evidence, according to Harry Namwaza, deputy spokesperson for the Malawi Police Service, who informed VOA via a messaging app.
“Actually, as cops, you know that we have the authority to summon anyone we believe will be useful in our investigations, and the investigation was legally binding.” As a result, we believe that basing the accusation on that is insufficient in terms of proof,” he stated.
The investigation into Gondwe, according to Namwaza, is still ongoing.
“Interrogating him was one of the steps of our investigation since he is one of the persons we know who might be able to assist us.”
Police have yet to begin investigating the hacking event, according to Namwaza, because the Platform for Investigative Journalism has not filed a complaint.
Gregory Gondwe said his team is still trying to figure out what happened.
“We haven’t complained because we’re investigating what’s been going on,” he explained. “We believe the cops are the major suspects because of the hacking.” The arrest, confiscation of IT devices, and hacking of our website were the first. What makes you think I’ll go to the same police station and file a complaint?”
Gondwe claims that his media business has so far enlisted the support of independent IT specialists to track out the hackers.
Sheriff Kaisi, a security analyst, believes that if police wish to stay out of trouble, they should collaborate with other groups such as the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority to trace down and apprehend the hackers.