BLANTYRE--Four private radio stations were taken off-air for several hours Thursday for what the Malawi Communications Authority (MACRA) said was inflaming people to rise against government.This was a day after MACRA had told private radio to stop live coverage of street demonstrations against government that have been taking place since Wednesday. According to letters to the radio stations, the live broadcasts were "inciting people" to revolt against government.The radio stations that were taken off-air were Capital Radio, Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) FM, Star Radio and Joy Radio of former president Bakili Muluzi.Veteran journalist Alaudin Osman, who owns Capital Radio, told MaraPost Thursday night MACRA just switched them off without warning. He said no explanation was made about the switch-off."No one from MACRA or police bothered to warn us we were to be taken off air and why," he said. But Osman, one time Muluzi Press Secretary, said the switch-off was ill-advised for the live updates were important public services that alerted people to take precautionary measures when planning their day.As if the 'switch-off' of the four radio stations wasnt enough, several journalists were heavily beaten up by police on Wednesday as they covered the demonstrations. Cameras and recording equipment were also confiscated.A popular UK-based Malawi online publication, Nyasa Times, was also hacked into, according to its editor.All this was happening after two vehicles belonging to Zodiak Broadcasting Station, a private radio station popular with the rural areas of Malawi, were smashed and set alight by unidentified masked men prior to the demonstrations.The state-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation's radio and television channels have been running a spirited campaign against the demonstrations. MBC even tried to capitalise on Malawians' homophobia by dubbing the planned anti-government demonstrations as 'gay parades'."These gay rights activists are under pressure from their donor about how they use their funding," said one popular refrain on MBC. "They want you to march on July 20 so that they take your pictures and send to their donors and say: 'these were pro-gay rights marches."Meanwhile, Pres Bingu wa Mutharika Thursday addressed Malawians in a special radio and television address where he pleaded with Malawians to stop the demonstrations, saying he was ready to meet whoever has issues with him.Malawi has this week been experiencing unprecedented events reminiscent of 1992 when Malawians had had enough of the three-decade long dictatorship of founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda.Tens of thousands of Malawians, led by civil society leaders, have been pouring into the streets in the cities of the commercial capital, Blantyre, the eastern city of Zomba, the capital Lilongwe and the northern city of Mzuzu and other districts since Wednesday to demonstrate against a myriad of social and economic problems besetting Malawi and deteriorating governance standards. At least 18 people have been shot and killed by police and scores of others are in hospital nursing gun-shot wounds.--maravipostRead more: Mutharika administration targeting private media to whip them into line?