MISA ZAMBIA DISTURBED BY THE CLAMPDOWN ON JOURNALISTS OVER THE MONGU RIOTS AND THE BAROTSELAND AGREEMENT
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia is deeply disturbed by the atmosphere of repression that is developing around police investigations of the perpetrators of the riots in Mongu last Friday, over the Barotseland Agreement.
Our concern follows the detention of Radio Lyambai Assistant Station Manager, Nyambe Muyumbana, and Post Newspapers reporter Mwala Kalaluka, on 18th January 2011 in Mongu and Kabwe respectively, in connection with the disturbances in Mongu.
What is worrying is that police are picking up and detaining journalists on flimsy grounds.
We would like to know why Mr. Muyumbana was detained. Is it because of his journalistic work, or was he one of the agitators of the riots in Mongu?
The Post newspaper reports today that Kalaluka was detained because he had a phone conversation regarding the current goings on in Mongu, while travelling on a bus to Kabwe. This apparently prompted an intelligence officer, who overheard the conversation, to order his detention.
What did Kalaluka say which warranted his detention?
The detention of Muyumbana and Kalaluka sounds dubious and is clearly a violation of the right to freedom of expression of the journalists. We would like the authorities to tell us if there is anything criminal about discussing the recent events in Mongu, including the Barotseland Agreement.
It is evident from these two incidents that the authorities are beginning to clamp down on anyone who might want to discuss recent disturbances in Mongu, or the Barotseland Agreement.
If journalists, who are the conscience of the citizens, are barred from discussing these issues, who is going to provide a platform for people to debate this very controversial subject in order to find a lasting solution which is satisfying to all the concerned parties – the government, the Barotse Royal Establishment, the people agitating for the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement and all other Zambians?
The solution to the problem of the Barotseland Agreement, which was created by the government of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, lies in a complete and thorough discussion among all the relevant stakeholders, leading to a permanent and lasting solution, which is agreeable to all.
We would like to urge the government to resist the temptation of using the Barotseland Agreement as an excuse to clamp down on opponents, real or perceived, the media inclusive.
Further, we would like to reiterate our call for the speedy resolution of the problems between Radio Lyambai and the authorities, so that the station can get back on air and play a role in promoting peace and national development.