Panos fears journalists in Zambia are under siege

Lusaka, 10 July 2013

Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) is gravely concerned about the growing trend of attacks on journalists in Zambia by various politicians, and other members of the society.  The media is at the cornerstone of PSAf’s interventions in Southern Africa fostering good governance and socio-economic development by increasing access to information and public participation platforms.

PSAf therefore finds harassment and attacks on journalists as a hindrance to the region’s development.

The attacks on journalists have created unnecessary fear and anxiety among media practitioners, especially those working for online publications, thus limiting the ability of the media to serve the society better. This is a major affront to democracy and freedom of expression in the country.

In the early hours of Tuesday 9 July, police arrested and detained two journalists, Clayson Hamasaka and Thomas Zyambo.

The arrest of Zyambo and Hamasaka adds to a growing list of violations on media freedom, and the right of journalists to report freely. So far, at least ten cases have been recorded in 2013 alone.

These include:

  • On 7 February, the police in Kasempa summoned the station manager of Kasempa FM Community Radio station, Nyambe Muyumbana over issues relating to the station’s programming. The move was believed to be a result of political influence from the local District Commissioner
  • On 6 March 2013 at Feel Free FM radio, supporters of the ruling PF party forcibly removed a guest out of the radio station;
  • On 17 March 2013, United Party for National Development (UPND) supporters allegedly harassed journalists who went to cover a media briefing by the party’s leader Hakainde Hichilema. The cadres harassed the Post Newspapers Photojournalist Salim Dawood, and forced some journalists to flee from the briefing;
  • On Saturday, 15 June 2013 suspected supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) attacked Njenje Chivu, a journalist from privately owned Muvi TV and seized his camera while covering clashes between rival political party supporters in Kampasa, where two civilians were killed by state security officials.
  • On 18 June 2013, ruling Patriotic Front cadres also disrupted an annual general meeting for Mkushi Community Radio station in the Central Province. It is alleged the cadres demanded to be elected to the radio station’s board.
  • On 31 May 2013, suspected ruling PF cadres harassed journalists, civil society representatives and church leaders during a prayer meeting at the Church of the Bible Gospel Outreach Church in Africa (BIGOCA) in Lusaka’s Matero.
  • On 12 June 2013, suspected PF cadres disrupted programming at Flava FM radio station in Kitwe where cleric and political activist, Father Frank Bwalya was to feature in a live programme.
  • On 19 June 2013, a police Commissioner called a Muvi TV reporter, Mwaka Namfukwe asking her to reveal sources over a story she had written about the armed/defence forces.
  • Frequent harassment of journalists covering court processes by members of the judiciary, the state and political actors.

PSAf is deeply concerned that media freedom in Zambia is under siege, and would like to call upon all stakeholders (government, politicians and other leaders alike) to exercise restraint and respect media freedom which is enshrined in the Constitution.

Over the years, Zambia has established itself as a leader in African democracy, and the harassment of journalists, regardless of the motivation, is a big dent on the country’s good standing as a beacon of democracy on the continent.

We call upon the relevant authorities to ensure that journalists are protected from undue harassment and intimidation. Journalists should be able to carry out their duties without fear or favour. A free and independent media is a key pillar of Zambia’s democratic standing.

Issued by Lilian Kiefer, Executive Director

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