Veteran journalist Charles Chisala has warned that the continued harassment and persecution of journalists and the media in general is denting Zambia’s image to the international community.
Supporters of the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) in recent times have attacked media institutions resulting in the assaulting of journalists and presenters.
Well known UPND cadres at the weekend assaulted the manager of Chingola’s Kokoliko FM Radio Station when disrupting a radio programme that featured the Economic and Equity Party (EEP) controversial President Chilufya Tayali.
The cadres went on to prevent Mr. Tayali from featuring on a planned radio programme at Mafkeni Radio Station in Mufulira on the day that followed.
The cadres lined-up around Mafukeni Radio Station to block Mr. Tayali from entering the premises of the media institution. In a written statement, Mr. Chisala, a former news editor, said the international community receives and documents violations of media freedom and freedom of expression.
He said an assault on a journalist or media house is an assault on democracy and good governance. Mr. Chisala said harassment of journalists should not be treated as a small matter because it has serious implications for the nation’s wellbeing.
He noted that an assault on a journalist or media house is blamed on the government.
“Harassment of journalists should not be treated as a small matter. It has serious implications for our nation’s well being. Because of their inherent occupational vulnerability, journalists have vast, well-interconnected and well-funded national, regional, continental and global networks through which they share their common challenges, achievements and aspirations, and defend their profession’s values and interests. The smallest violation of their freedom reverberates across the globe in hours; quickly shared and documented,” Mr. Chisala stated.
He said the global community was monitoring the assault on a journalist or media houses in Zambia.
“Some of these influential organizations can sue the perpetrators individually or collectively on behalf of an individual victim or media institution demanding hefty compensation. The eyes of the global media fraternity are wide open and alert 24/7.For example, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) head office in Windhoek, Namibia, receives and documents what are known as ‘alerts’ on the violations of media freedom and freedom of expression from all its national chapters across the region. These alerts are later compiled into reports which are submitted to governments and cooperating partners, including foreign missions, and widely disseminated to the public,” Mr. Chisala said.
“Freedom of the press and freedom of expression form part of the benchmarks for some bilateral and multilateral agreements. An assault on a journalist or media house is an assault on democracy and good governance. The blame is heaped on the government. Our country’s image suffers, and that is not good for investor confidence. Cadres, police and other people cannot dictate how journalists should do their work. Where they overstep the red lines there are enough laws to take care of them,” he said.
Last November journalist Lovemore Phiri of Pasme FM in Petauke, Eastern Province was beaten by UPND cadres during his breakfast radio programme where callers were calling in on the topic of fertilizers distribution. The attack on Phiri occurred in the early hours of Friday, 4th November 2022 by suspected UPND cadres who stormed PASME radio and interrupted a live programme that was discussing farmers preparedness for the 2022/23 farming season.
In mid-November 2022, MUVI Television journalist Innocent Phiri and camera man Obvious Kaunda were detained by Police in Lusaka as they covered police raiding Chilufya Tayali’s House. Police raid at Tayali’s house came in wake of his live facebook broadcast in which he attacked President Hakainde Hichilema regarding a number of issues. Phiri and Kaunda remained detained at Lesoleil Community Police Station in Roma Township in Lusaka for days before they were released from custody.