Post editor called me agent of Satan-Emmanuel Mwamba

On the eve of International  press freedom day, journalists in Zambia are engaged in hot bickering on what form media regulation should take.

Journalists, through their associations were supposed to launch a body to preside over media ethics on May 3, but this was postponed due to disagreement.

This weekend journalists have been meeting to see if they can iron out the sticking points, but the meeting turned sour as some participants were forced to walk out citing a hostile environment.

Emmanuel Mwamba, a member of both MISA and PAZA has accused the meeting orgnaisers of stifling debate.

He has also accused Post Newspaper manging editor Amos Malupenga of calling him an agent of Lucifer.

Mwamba, worried about this has written a letter of complaint to the chairperson of the Media Liason Committee.

A copy of the said letter, which has been sent to all media houses, is produced below:

Emmanuel Mwamba

The Chairperson,

Media Liaison Committee (MLC)

LUSAKA

RE: WITHDRAWAL FROM THE MEDIA CONFERENCE

As you saw, I had to take a very painful and sad decision to withdraw from participating in the on-going Media Conference at Pamodzi Hotel discussing the formation of the ethics body –ZAMEC.

The environment in the meeting became hostile, refused to recognize fundamental freedoms such as rights of expression, of holding and expressing free opinions. The environment was made difficult by the domination and imposition of a single opinion that fostered that atmosphere;

I will cite the following examples in reference to myself:

  1. Following a wonderful presentation by Wits University lecturer, Professor, Franz Kruger, I asked a question referring the Professor Kruger to his own Booklet that reviewed Media Councils in Southern Africa, and his reference to the failure of Zambia’s MECOZ which cited among the reason of failure, the non-participation of The Post in MECOZ. I also asked him on the civil sanctions that should be available to an ethics body. I also requested him to shed light on the contrasting models in Councils in Tanzania and South Africa

However, this received a strong reaction from Post Editor Amos Malupenga who accused me OF BEING AN AGENT OF THE DEVIL and an Agent of Government.

I requested for an apology from both the Chair of the Session Justin Mwiinga and from Mr. Malupenga. The chair apologized and requested that Mr. Malupenga apoligises upon which a conditional apology was given.

  1. Later I requested from the chair of another session Mr. Amos Chanda, to guide the meeting on the structure of today’s meeting. My question related to the process and structure of adopting the draft Constitution of ZAMEC which was being discussed and certain proposal I had for example, to strengthen ZAMEC and allay fears that we were creating a toothless and impotent body. My questions received heckling and disruptions from a particular section of the audience.

The above depict the hostile environment that the meeting degenerated to and the fate that that lay to those holding divergent views and opinions such as myself. Anyone who held divergent views were deemed to be disruptive, an agent of government and was anti-press freedom…

I have attended numerous media meetings where I have participated in lively and sometimes acrimonious and fruitful intellectual debate. But I have never experienced the abuse that faced me and others in this particular meeting. When the meeting degenerated to an environment that stifled free speech, hindered free expression of views and prevented the holding of free opinions, I felt that I couldn’t participate in such a meeting as it failed a simple test of free and democratic meeting. The meeting also degenerated to verbal abuse and name calling, I felt that my dignity was being undermined and my integrity at stake, I therefore left the meeting to its own intentional devices.

The regulation of the media is important. The model of self regulation is the most ideal as generally agreed by the fraternity. However, it is not an excuse for all of us to voluntary make and form a body that will is ineffective and will not promote the other limb of freedom – which is RESPONSIBILITY. Therefore ZAMEC will remain a toothless and academic body if it is not made to respond to important concerns from stakeholders such as government and others. We also claim to be gathering consensus yet we are betraying the same principle. We are quick to demand and extol the virtues and dictates of Freedom of Expression when we are the one to violate the very lofty principles. This amounts to hypocrisy.

This development saddens me personally especially that we journalists are quick to call for entrenched freedoms of expression, of speech and of holding free opinion, yet we are quick to shut people up and bar divergent views. This also defeats the quests for more freedoms which we are quick to deny others. This event was also regrettable especially that we as a fraternity are celebrating press freedom tomorrow on 3rd May 2010.

As a professional, I have been keen to participate in processes that affect me as an individual and the fraternity. Today, I felt that important national processes such as this can be reduced to the regrettable conduct as displayed by some of the participants.

In light of a previous report in The Post where contributions I made were made to unfairly reflect me as being disruptive, I will make the content of this letter public so that the true reflection of the event where I walked out, is protected and portrayed in a fair manner.

Emmanuel Mwamba

2nd May 2010.

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