Lusaka, 10th December 2015
Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) is concerned about the growing attacks on the media, especially community media by intolerant political party activists, as this is hindering the growth of democracy in the country and infringing on citizens’ rights.
PSAf has learnt with concern that there is growing levels of violence against journalists and media houses in the country. Recent occurrences include the Wednesday last week attack on Chikaya Radio Station by suspected ruling Patriotic Front (PF) cadres who allegedly stormed the Community Radio Station in Lundazi District and forcibly stopped a recorded political programme. The cadres allegedly went to the extent of switching off the radio mixer and ordered the announcer on duty to play music instead of the political programme. A few days earlier, suspected PF cadres had also stormed Breeze FM in Chipata and forced the abortion of a political programme featuring Rainbow Party leader Wynter Kabimba. And on Tuesday 8th December, PF cadres attacked the Post Newspaper’s Copperbelt based journalist Charles Tembo.
These attacks on the media are an affront to democracy and good governance, and a hindrance to citizens’ participation in the governance of the country. For example, Breeze FM has since announced that because of the attacks, the station has suspended all political programmes and news. This means that citizens who rely on the station to receive information and participate in political debates that affect the development of their country are being marginalized and excluded.
With the 2016 electoral season setting in, this growing intimidation of the media and intolerance of dissenting views threaten effective political governance in the country. We encourage all political actors to be responsible and engage each other on ideas, not physically. While Zambia is well known across Southern Africa as a leader in democracy, we find it extremely unfair for a few politicians to dent such a good record for selfish ends. Politicians and their supporters must engage each other on ideas, and allow citizens to effectively participate in political and other decision-making processes.
We encourage media institutions not to throw in the towel in the face of threats and intimidation. Ahead of the 2016 general elections, PSAf is putting in place measures to support the defense and protection of the media institutions that are being hindered from effectively playing their role. We believe that a strong media and favourable information and communication environment are critical to the development and prosperity of Zambia and we will play our role to support.
Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa