The police in Eastern Province over the weekend arrested two PF officials, the youth chairman William Phiri and treasurer Zephenia Mwale, for threatening journalists at Chipata’s Radio Maria last week. However, the two were released yesterday after the Church withdrew the matter.
The PF cadres last week threatened violence on Radio Maria news editor and other journalists after a radio programme which discussed the ruling party’s intra-party elections. But these threats annoyed President Edgar Lungu who, without hesitation, issued instructions to the police to arrest the PF cadres and deal with them sternly as he is a believer in press freedom. In the same vein, the Head of State instructed the police to also arrest PF cadres that threatened violence and harassed journalists at Power FM in Kabwe when they featured opposition NDC consultant Chishimba Kambwili.
Based on the Head of State’s orders, the police acted in Eastern Province and arrested two ruling party officials over the threats on journalists. Although the police have released the two officials, the efforts to arrest the perpetrators of violence are still commendable. This is what the police should be doing without any hesitation. Already, the Head of State wondered why the Inspector General, Kakoma Kanganja, did not move to ensure that those using the party’s name to commit crimes are brought to book. In fact, the bigger indictment is on the police in Eastern and Central provinces where these crimes were committed. The fact that journalists in these two areas were threatened was in public domain the moment the harassment took place. But nothing was done until the President spoke about it, condemned the act and ordered the arrest of the perpetrators of the wrongs.
We are happy that the Head of State, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services and the Independent Broadcasting Authority all weighed in heavily to strongly condemn this harassment. To us, this shows some commitment towards promotion of a free press and the rights of journalists in the discharge of their duties.
Nobody has the right to threaten journalists, regardless of their political affiliation. The practice of journalism is a noble calling that deserves a lot of respect. Remember, journalists belong to the fourth estate, which is a critical component in any democracy. Without the media, Zambia will cease to be a democracy. This is a fact that President Lungu, obviously, holds dear hence his quick response to the harassment and violence on journalists at the two radio stations. There is no exception when it comes to the provision of information and this is a responsibility that all journalists have taken up at a very great risk as they face tremendous threats from all angles.
Like President Lungu has done, we expect leaders of the opposition political parties to also strongly condemn attacks on journalists usually perpetrators by their cadres against journalists from public media institutions such as ZNBC, Daily Mail, Times of Zambia and others. What politicians must realise is that they will need these journalists at any point, whether in opposition or ruling party. This is why it is important that they both allow free operations of the media without harassment, violence or intimidation.