By Hon. Bowman C. Lusambo, MP-Kabushi
It is common knowledge that the post-election period is the most challenging phase of any election process especially in an emerging democracy like ours and the need to safeguard the democratic gains can therefore not be over emphasised.
For Zambia, this period has further been complicated by a number of election related petitions hanging over at both parliamentary and presidential levels.
As a key pillar of democracy, the media’s role becomes even more paramount in ensuring smooth transition during the post-election period.
We therefore find it appalling and shocking that Radio Phoenix appears to be sailing in a different direction.
We say so because Radio Phoenix elected to air a false news report on its 13 Hours bulletin on Thursday, August 1st 2016 regarding the recent happenings in Namwala, Southern Province.
Radio Phoenix and its Editors lied to the nation that there was no ethnic cleansing happening in Namwala.
They also disputed facts that were established by organisations such as the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit under the Vice President’s Office and the Red Cross that people that hail from other ethnic groups were targeted in systematic attacks on their lives, livestock and property.
Instead of sticking to facts as Journalism ethics demand, Radio Phoenix preferred running a movie-like script on their main news only perfect for a Nollywood movie.
We can only conclude that Radio Phoenix through its News Editor Mr Hyde Haguta who is a known UPND sympathiser choose to play to the gallery and discarded all media ethics and broadcast material that goes against basic common sense.
How can Radio Phoenix claim that those that were attacked in Namwala deliberately set their houses on fire in order to claim compensation from the DMMU?
How can Radio Phoenix in the same story claim that the victims were infact from Ngabwe district in the Central Province and not Namwala? Doesn’t Radio Phoenix understand the distance between Ngabwe and Namwala?
When did Radio Phoenix undertake it’s so called investigations in Namwala? Whom did the Reporters interview because in their so called investigative piece, the station does not give us the source of their story but merely uses speculation. How can a news piece on a matter of such national importance be allowed to run purely based on speculation?
How can Radio Phoenix claim that one of the victim’s house was torched because of misunderstandings over an alleged adulterous affair?
This is complete hogwash and a serious indictment on the levels of deterioration that some of our media institutions have suffered.
As the PF Disaster Response Committee comprising senior party officials among them Members of Parliament led by Chairperson for Elections Hon. Jean Kapata, we invited over 20 Journalists from reputable media houses to accompany us to Namwala on a fact-finding mission and humanitarian tour at which we donated various items valued at over K100,000 to the victims of the Namwala attacks.
We also condemned ethnic tensions in the area and we re-echoed President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s call for One Zambia, One Nation.
All the media houses that undertook the trip to Namwala reported what they saw and interviewed victims who wilfully gave them unsolicited interviews about the attacks.
The audio and video evidence is there to show that what happened in Namwala was a systematic attack on innocent citizens simply because they belonged to a different ethnic group which was in the minority.
If this is not ethnic cleansing, then we challenge the Editors at Radio Phoenix to help the nation find the definition for these kind of barbaric and savagely attacks never seen before in our nation.
We are however not surprised that such kind of reporting is coming from Radio Phoenix because the station management refused to release a Reporter to accompany us to Namwala even after making frantic efforts.
Our team was ready to pay for the Reporter’s travel to Namwala together with other 20 Reporters and ensure that they cover the story adequately but Mr Haguta refused to release any Reporter for that trip.
We can only conclude that Mr Haguta did that to serve his own selfish interests as he had planned to broadcast the trash material he did as part of his desperate propaganda on behalf of his party of choice, the UPND.
We however wish to warn Radio Phoenix to be very careful as they broadcast their propaganda. We are fully aware that some Journalists at Radio Phoenix are on the payroll of Mr Hakainde Hichilema but that should not give them the licence to feed the nation on lies which they masquerade as news.
We challenge Radio Phoenix to release a Reporter to travel with us to Namwala to go and report facts. We will cover all expenses for the trip but we will guarantee editorial independence for the Reporter. We believe this is a necessary expense that we have to incur in order to put to bed all the distortions that may have been created by the erroneous report aired on Radio Phoenix.
If Mr Haguta again fails to take up this challenge and refuses to release a Reporter, we will be left with no option but to conclude that he is the wrong man for the job and the sooner Radio Phoenix relieves him of his duty, the better for the station in particular and the nation as a nation in general.
We also urge relevant government institutions including the Independent Broadcasting Authority to take a keen interest in the happenings at Radio Phoenix. As followers of the station since inception, we can inform the nation that some rogue characters have invaded the institution and are transmitters of hate and propaganda. If Radio Phoenix remains on its current course, the station is a danger to itself and to the nation and can set this beautiful nation on fire.
We also call for an immediate investigation into the shareholding structure of Radio Phoenix. We know that since the original proprietor Mr Errol Hickey gave up control, the radio station is no longer the same.
The new owners from Botswana have been secretly increasing their stake in the running of the station and we are now aware that they own a controlling stake in the station which is contrary to government policy.
We therefore call upon investigative wings of government to quickly investigate how the Botswana investors ended up with more shares in a local radio station than what the law stipulates.
We also wish to take this opportunity to caution all media houses to ensure that they remain professional and discharge their duties ethically in order to safeguard national peace and security.