PRESS FREEDOM AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION UNDER THE PF.
A wise man once said, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost”. I agree with this statement while I think that freedom of expression shouldn’t supersede or infringe on other people’s rights. Freedom of expression shouldn’t be at the expense of public security.
But today I focus on the negative impact the Patriotic Front (PF) regime has had on media freedoms.
I know that even in the richest democracies, confrontation between opposing voices exists and I don’t think there is a sure way of eradicating it completely.
Allow me to cite the many incidences that show that the PF have more often than not wanted the people of Zambia to listen to only what is good for them.
This is their legacy with regards to media houses.
June 21, 2016. The Government of the republic of Zambia closes down Post Newspapers Limited for disputed tax arrears, sending home 1,500 workers. It is important to note that the newspaper at the time argued that most of its debt had been settled before the raid.
While I must state that it maybe true that The Post owed money, the timing and style of the pouncing raised a lot of concerns.
August 2016, just after the August 11 general elections, the Independent Broadcasting Authory (IBA) suspends licenses for Muvi TV, Komboni radio and Itezhi-tezhi radio for more than a month. They cited “unprofessional conduct which posed a risk to national peace and security.”
14th December, 2017. Suspected PF thugs attack 5FM radio in Lusaka to disrupt a program featuring Chishimba Kambwili. 5FM is about 100 meters from Lusaka central police, they took ages to show up.
Tuesday April 30, 2019. PF cadres in Kabwe curtail Power FM’s ‘power to the people’ program which hosted yet again Mr.Kambwili. They destroyed property in the process.
Wednesday night, 1st May, 2019. 2 days before World press freedom day, PF cadres storm Radio Maria in Chipata District for featuring Maxon Nkoma, a governance activist. They also issue death threats to Tobias Daka the news editor.
Bringing us to 2020, the covid-19 year.
8th April, IBA cancels the broadcasting license of Zambia’s most popular private TV station, Prime TV, sending home breadwinners. This was done “in the interest of public safety, security welfare and good order.”
May 2020 in Muchinga province…
14th May, Mpika DC in the company of others interrupt a radio program featuring Hakainde Hichilema (HH), this is because the PF and their cohorts don’t want anything else discussed but covid-19. Even after the republican President encouraged Zambians to continue living in the “new normal”.
15th May, Muchinga radio journalist is attacked by PF cadres. He was hosting HH and again people only wanted covid discussions.
The latest, 18th May, Monday night, ISO Radio in Isoka, Muchinga is under attack… the guest? HH.
Nangu tapa soswa shuwa, we are a democratic nation and press freedom can never be overemphasized. It’s like we are being tested, if this continues, who knows? The next target might just be a polling station.
I know that government may distinguish which materials are public or protected from disclosure to the public due to various reasons but what we are seeing in our country is definitely not it.
Leave the media alone!