We do not expect Foreign Affairs minister Chishimba Kambwili to admit that his paymaster Michael Sata was involved in some folly in Uganda.
But what we can say is that president Sata caused drama in Uganda during the Great Lakes Region Summit by disregarding officials who were on hand to direct him where he was supposed to sit with other presidents.
Sata decided to go and greet people he thought were Zambians. This happened before the summit opened and not during a break as Kabwili and that chap from Uganda were trying to say. It is clear the two do not know what they are talking about.
But our writing this is not really to argue about this particular behaviour of Sata but to comment on Kambwili’s threats and demands.
In his zeal to deny the story involving Sata’s misconduct in Uganda, Kabwili said MUVI TV knew his mobile phone number and should have verified the story with him before airing it. He said it was the policy of the PF administration to liberalise the airwaves, but warned that inaccurate reporting shall not be condoned. He also demanded a retraction and apology.
We do not what Muvi TV makes of this but we hereby tell Kambwili to hang.
Press Freedom is a not a gift that Kambwili and his PF can give to the media in Zambia. Media freedom, the right of journalist to gather and publish news without interference, is not something that the PF government can grant and withdraw as they wish. In short, it is not theirs. They found it and they will leave. Like other barbarians, they will use all sort of tricks and threats but long after they have gone, media freedom or the quest for media freedom will continue.
In this veiled threat, what Kambwili is saying is that if, Muvi TV or any other media writes something, which he, Kambwili considers to be untrue, government can take away the freedom of the media.
Kambwili, as an interested party in this matter cannot act the victim, policeman, judge and prison warder.
It is the habit of PF leaders to open their mouths and proclaim how much freedom they have given the media to operate. But their behaviour is no different from those of others who have been before them. They always say you will have press freedom as long as…
What makes Kambwili and other government officials think they have the right to define what constitutes media freedom? Who is Kambwili to tell us what to write and what not to? What makes Kambwili think that the media is obliged to get his opinion on any news item they want to publish?
Even that action by minister of information Given Lubinda to demand an explanation from ZNBC on what transpired during the born and bred event is uncalled for. It is one clear sign of interference by the government in the operations of ZNBC.
ZNBC should be left to run independently. The directors at ZNBC can handle that issue on their own. But then, maybe they cannot. With people like Kenneth Maduma, who, instead of doing administrative work as number two at ZNBC, he is competing with little girls on who should read news at 13 or show their face on TV at 19 hours.
This low quality of leadership at ZNBC can be squarely blamed on government interference. ZNBC top leadership should have been selected through a competitive process not political association.
And what the heck is Lubinda talking about when he says immorality at the born and bred? Who is he to tell us that this is immoral? Which standard is he using? What about his personal behaviour? Is he not the same person who was dancing with half-naked women when Mutukuzi visited Zambia a few weeks ago? Just because his behaviour was not captured on TV, does it make it more saintly than that of the young people who were enjoying themselves at Mulungushi?
But then, we are talking about Kambwili because his talk is much more dangerous. Kambwili should refrain from trying to intimidate the media. He will not succeed. We have come along a long way in fighting for media freedom. He can succeed to take away the licence of Muvi Tv or even have some journalists arrested.
But that will just be a phase. It will pass. The media will flourish again. Kambwili may not be minister the next day. But the information on whoever will be president of Zambia will continue coming in. This does not matter whether ministers say that information is true or not.
And that Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Henry Okello should have some manners. It is stupid of him to suggest that the revelation that Sata was misconducting himself can lead to tension.
The man should be a serious moron. Which is more serious, the behaviour of Sata or the report about his behaviour?
How can he without shame lie that he was with Sata all the time? Why was he concentrating on our president? Didn’t he have other guests to attend to?
If Okello is used to live under tension, that is his problem to sort out. In Zambia we are free and as journalists, we reserve the right to write about our elected leaders.
So what if Museven received Sata in person? Does that change Sata’s conduct?
We know Kambwili and his colleagues yearn for a media that will be writing their CVs and their statements. They want a media that refers to them as honourable. They are happy when the media publishes what they said in Uganda. To them, this is professional journalism.
But Kambwili must know that journalists are not personal secretaries.
Journalists are there to monitor how government operates. And since government has the human element, the behaviour of these human beings in government cannot be separated from the operation of government.
That is why their personal behaviour and conduct, in private and public is very important and should be monitored.
Thank God there is Internet now and most people read news on the Internet.