THE SMALL MATTER OF A FIVE MILLION KWACHA LAW SUIT: WHEN JOURNALISTS JUMP THE GUN; SHOOT FROM THE HIP; AND END UP SHOOTING THEMSELVES IN THE FOOT
By Wilfred Sameta
A BACKGROUND OF THE ISSUE
The Broadcasting licence for Prime TV has been suspended for 30 days following what the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) cited as among other things, “opinionated news” “materials likely to incite violence” “use of derogatory language” and “unbalanced coverage”.
All this arose out of the Prime TV main evening news of Saturday 9th February 2019 which carried a lead story “ARMED STATE POLICE, PF CADRES CHASE OF HH IN THICK FOREST TOOK EIGHT HOURS.
The suspension is a sad development not only for the media fraternity, but for the entire nation as whole, because the press and broadcast media are crucial both in their explicit capacity of advocacy and their implicit ability to frame socio-economic and political issues.
Malcom X the charismatic African American Muslim minister and Human Rights Activist recognised this in his quote:
“The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power-because they control the minds of the masses”.
The power that the media wields is like a gun or a double edged sword. Such power needs to be handled with extreme caution and maximum restraint. It is dangerous in the hands of a novice and equally disastrous when handled with overconfidence arrogance or blind rage.
Speaking of guns, there are three English phrases I still remember from Father Riley my “O” Level English Language and English Literature teacher. These particular idioms relate to the discharge of a fire arm and they also appropriately describe Prime TV House style.
The First: “To jump the gun”* “is to act prematurely; act too soon or be overhasty.
The Second: “To shoot from the hip” is to act or react without careful consideration of the consequences of one’s words or actions.
The third one is usually a consequence of the first two: “To shoot oneself in the foot” is to be the author of one’s own misfortune.
While one sympathises with Prime TV current predicament, the fact cannot be ignored that because Prime TV has a tendency to sensationalise and over-hype their anti-government stories and current affairs programmes.
They often jump the gun, shoot from the hip and usually end up with a gaping bullet hole in their feet.
HOW PRIME TV JUMPED THE GUN SHOT FROM THE HIP AND ENDED UP BEING SUED FOR FIVE MILLION KWACHA; CAUSE NO. HP 0984 RAPHAEL NAKACHINDA VERSUS AKAKULUBELWA, GERALD SHAWA KALANI MUCHIMA_
Prime TV’s style has been so deviant and belligerent that they are currently facing a K5, 000,000 (Five million Kwacha) slander law suit that could potentially permanently shut down the media house, and send its owners and an erstwhile presenter of Oxygen of Democracy into bankruptcy.
The litigation was lodged by Honourable Rapheal Nakacinda – the National Secretary of the Felix Mutati-led Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).
The controversy was ignited when Kalani Muchima during a live presentation of “Oxygen of Democracy” broached the issue of a woman who accused Nakacinda of swindling her in 2006.
Kalani ambushed Nakachinda and took by surprise by playing a video recording in which the woman accused Raphael Nakacinda of failing to deliver a truck in spite of receiving K47, 000 from her to purchase the Canter.
Ms Martha Mumba the woman at odds with Nakachinda said she instituted legal action against him which resulted in his conviction but he still hadn’t pay back.
Hon Nakachinda clarified that he was acquitted upon appeal in the matter, charging that the interview was a premeditated plan to ensnare him and dent his image.
But Kalani Muchima wouldn’t budge; He his dug into trench and relentlessly blazed his guns on his guest as he blatantly called Raphael Nakacinda a “thief” on live TV.
The interview had by this time taken the scandalous atmosphere of a Jerry Springer show.
The following is an extract from the verbatim of the programme:
_”Nakacinda: You are saying that I stole money?_
_Kalani: You are, supposed this woman engaged you to buy a canter vehicle for that woman and you never…_
_Nakacinda: Are you ready to substantiate what you are alleging?_
_Kalani: I am ready_
_Nakacinda: Are you sure you are ready to substantiate what you are alleging?_
_Kalani: I am ready_
_Nakacinda: So you are suggesting that Nakacinda seated here …_
_Kalani: And I have used the word stealing._
_Nakacinda: That I am a thief?_
_Kalani: That you are a thief, you stole money_
_Nakacinda: Okay let me put it this way ba Kalani, I know that you want to demonstrate that you are a robust journalist. I think you are almost at a point of terminating your career. If you come and say that I am a thief, there is somebody who has alleged [that] I am a thief and that I was convicted, having been taken to court and convicted._
_That is not only defamatory; I don’t know how I can put it. But nevertheless, I want to say on this platform that from here, I am going to sue you and sue Prime TV, to prove that (i) I stole, (ii) I was convicted, and this you must prove in the court of law because I think now this is beyond journalism. It basically wants to defame people, you have to prove that. I don’t want to answer you but I think it is best answered in the court of law;_
_This all malice that this matter, after the decision of the court, I appealed and I was acquitted._
_Kalani: I have checked in the courts of law, I have not found that acquittal. I have all the documentation from all the monies that were transacted_
Nakacinda: You don’t have all the documentation.
_That case that was maliciously taken to court to try and fix me, I was acquitted for it.And if you understand the word acquitted, it means that it nullifies all those issues, judgement that you are talking about._
_I am a free man, *this kind of attitude of wanting to basically fix and finish that person should come to an end*”._
End of Excerpt
Though one is limited to comment on the matter as it is currently in the courts, Prime TV sensationally jumped the gun and shot from the hip; and by calling an acquitted man a thief and a convict on live TV; they shot themselves in the foot!
CHAABIJA MAKAANI YA KALANI: HOW MUCHIMA WAS LATER BETAYED BY HIS BOSS GERALD SHAWA
A few months down the line, Mr Gerald Shawa the proprietor of Prime TV did what he did to Kasebamashila Kaseba; having used him, he launched a constructive dismissal plan against Kalani Muchima that saw the young gifted journalist being systematically chucked out of Prime TV by offering new comers and new entrants better conditions than Muchima.
In a voice note that went viral, Muchim reacted with damning allegations against his boss- charging that Gerald shawa had betrayed him.
The young man expressed shock that his former boss could betray him in such a manner “after all that he had done for him”.
Kalani revealed that the Prime TV owner used to give him *“bad advice”* on *“how to make money”* for his television station.
Just what kind of *“bad advice”* does Shawa the Prime TV proprietor give his journalists?
Whatever it is, it is downright unprofessional and unethical as Kalani’s expose would suggest.
Is it to use partisan methods that go against best journalism practise and ethics to “fix and finish” persons perceived to be connected or sympathetic to government?
Could this have anything to with Gerald Shawa’s very close business and personal ties with Mr HH the leader of the opposition UPND?
Does it have anything to do with a known Prime TV Camera man campaigning with Bo HH whilst wearing regalia for UPND and filming at the same time?
Does“bad advice” “to make money” have anything to do with footage showing my traditional cousin being heard and seen directing the cameraman regarding where to focus the camera?
Whatever it is it appears Prime TV through their main evening news of Saturday 9th February 2019 jumped the gun shot from the hip, and end up shooting themselves in the foot.
Although Prime TV was unethical and unprofessional, their professional growth has also been badly let down by the far from professional conduct of media bodies such as the Media Liaison Committee, MISA and World Press Freedom Committee and the rest, and even the church- but that’s an aspect we will discuss in the next instalment.