The Patrotic Front (PF) government’s harassment of both private and public media has gained new momentum with the latest action being the interrogation of two journalists from the public owned Zambia Daily Mail newspaper by state agents.
Zambia Daily Mail chief sub editor Chapadongo Lungu and his deputy Musonda Chomba were summoned by the joint state investigative wings or the Taskforce on Corruption offices for questioning on Saturday, 19th May 2012 at 09:30 hours.
Former Zambia Daily Mail deputy managing director Davis Mataka was also summoned and interrogated for over four hours on Friday, May 18 2012. Mataka was again summoned to appear before the Taskforce Tuesday, May 22, 2012 where he spent many hours.
And officers from the Taskforce on Corruption have been conducting search operations at the Zambia Daily offices.
On Monday, the investigators were in the marketing and advertising departments to search for undisclosed data on company computers.
Mataka, Lungu and Chomba are being probed for their alleged involvement in the publication of propaganda newspapers for the MMD
prior to the general elections last year. The newspapers are The Zambian and Stand Up for Zambia.
Lungu and Chomba arrived at the Taskforce offices just before 09:30 hours on the day they were asked to report themselves. They were promptly taken to separate rooms where interrogators took turns in asking questions about the newspapers.
According to sources at the Taskforce, instructions were received to pin the three journalists for the ‘sins’ they committed against the PF using Stand Up for Zambia and The Zambian.
An interrogator who asked for anonymity said Mataka is likely to be arrested and charged with the offence of abuse of office because the state believes Mataka received colossal amounts of money to run the publications.
“We are using the other two journalists from the Daily Mail to get to Mataka who is believed to be the man who was in charge of the two newspapers. So far, we have a case against them and we are just waiting for further instructions on how to proceed,” the source said.
When contacted Chomba confirmed that he spent over four and half hours at the taskforce. He said the interrogators wanted information regarding Stand Up for Zambia and The Zambian newspapers.
Chapadongo Lungu could not be reached even on his mobile phones because the interrogators confiscated the handsets since they are believed to have been bought using funding for the two newspapers, which the police are calling ‘clandestine’ publications.
Lungu and Chomba expect to be retired or dismissed from their employment since the Zambia Daily is controlled by the PF government.
On May 14th this year, the Zambia Daily Mail retired a Sub editor Wallen Simwaka and Livingstone Bureau Chief Ndubi Mvula.
The letters of retirement availed to Zambia Reports state that Mvula and Simwaka have gone on voluntary retirement, although the duo had never applied to go on seperation.
Stand Up for Zambia and The Zambian were critical of the PF and President Michael Sata when he was leader of the then opposition political party.
Now that the PF has ascended to power, the party has a vicious plan to punish individuals and institutions that were critical of its existence.
The forced premature “retirement” of young journalists from state-owned media outlets is one of the methods being used to achieve the plan.