MISA is saddened by the continued threats to the freedom of expression and of the press by state institutions which are expected to act independently and in the public’s interest.
This follows the latest development in which Prime TV proprietor, Gerald Shawa and the station’s head of news, Makokwa Kozi, were warned and cautioned by Police for what are in our view vexatious offences aimed at intimidating the duo.
It is worrying that there is a clampdown on media freedoms and freedom of expression given the recent chain of events involving Komboni Radio, Muvi TV and Radio Itezhi Tezhi in what amounts to de facto censorship of the press.
We believe media practitioners must be held accountable for their actions if in conflict with the law but this must be done in a fair manner without any political interference and threat to the freedom of expression as has been observed over the past few months.
The Police must not allow themselves to be used to settle petty political differences through arbitrary and unsubstantiated application of the law which already bears many unreasonable restrictions on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms in Zambia.
We wish to call on all well-meaning Zambians to rise to the occasion and condemn the deteriorating human rights situation in the country as it is every citizen’s duty to defend, uphold and protect the constitution of Zambia as provided in Article 2 of the same constitution.
MISA will be on hand to offer legal support to the affected Prime TV duo if arrested to ensure justice is served while the institution has also issued an alert to embassies, international partners and human rights agencies over the deteriorating situation in Zambia and increasing threats to democratic governance.
It is therefore not surprising that various reputable international agencies such as the Freedom House, among many others continue to rate Zambia as ‘not free’ with regard to protection of the freedoms of expression and media freedom.
We therefore call on the President, His Excellency Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu to immediately stop this continued clampdown on various freedoms by state institutions as he swore to uphold and protect the constitution of Zambia.
We also call on the international community include the need for the state to clearly uphold fundamental freedoms among the conditions for offering any financial aid package to Zambia as this will help to ensure democratic governance, transparency and accountability.