No hashtag? No revolution.

When the people of Egypt filled Tahrir Square, we were predictably glued to the newsroom television. A single screen that normally flickered between British football games and Nigerian soap operas suddenly became fixed on Al Jazeera updates. It was a blazing hot January, and I had just begun reporting at Malawi’s oldest newspaper, The Daily Times.

The Arab Spring made an indelible impression on people across the globe. Beginning my internship at the Times, the first questions from family and friends were about a people’s revolution happening nearly 5,000 kilometres north. They asked what the mood was like in Africa and if the uprising was spreading south. There were a few moments when I had to earnestly explain that Egypt and Malawi were very different countries.

Rallying for academic freedom across Malawi

It began with a lecture.

At Chancellor College in Zomba, political science professor Dr. Blessings Chinsinga told his public policy class that Malawi’s shortages of fuel and foreign currency could ignite political uprising. To make his point, Dr. Chinsinga drew matter-of-fact comparisons to the mass protests that toppled governments in Egypt and Tunisia.

Though such discussion of current events may seem commonplace during a university politics lecture, Dr. Chinsinga’s words have since sparked an unprecedented country-wide battle over academic freedom.