The Christian Churches Monitoring Group is concerned with the continued intimidation and harassment of the media.
CCMG Steering Committee Chairperson Father Leophas Lungu says world over, a free press plays an important role in a democratic society, allowing the dissemination of information and a space for the exchange of opinions and ideas.
Fr Lungu says particularly in these challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments have a duty to uphold and protect the freedom of the press so that free information sharing is guaranteed.
He said CCMG thus notes with concern the recent happenings aimed at limiting press freedom, censoring and intimidating the media.
Fr Lungu has called on government to take concrete actions to investigate and hold individuals accountable for any violations.
“CCMG condemns in the strongest terms the actions of Mpika District Commissioner in instructing Mpika FM not to host a paid for programme featuring the United Party for National Development (UPND) President, on 13 May 2020, the unauthorized entry of suspected PF cadres into Muchinga Radio studios in Chinsali on 15 May 2020 to disrupt yet another paid for
programme featuring UPND President via telephone, and the attack on Isoka FM on May 18 during an interview with the UPND President”, he said.
“We are concerned that these acts of intimidation represent a restriction of press freedom,
which is a fundamental component of our democracy,” said Fr Lungu.
He said as the country is preparing for 2021 elections, the media must remain free as part of a democratic, transparent and credible electoral process.
Fr Lungu said as noted by the United Nations Secretary General in commemorating World Press Freedom Day earlier this month, meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic “depends on media freedom and independent reporting.
He said the challenges of COVID-19 should not be used to limit the freedom
of press, or the exchange of ideas and opinions.
Fr Lungu has since welcomed the statement by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services
noting that “it is a violation of the IBA Acg for any person to procure other people to storm a radio station and disrupt a broadcast programme or
order a broadcast station to broadcast in a certain manner.
He has urged the government to hold the individuals responsible accountable for their actions adding that Law
enforcement agencies should investigate the incidents in Chinsali and Isoka and ensure that the individuals involved are brought to book.
He has further called on government officials to refrain
from using their office to intimidate the media, and those who do be disciplined according to the appropriate procedures.
“Further, we call upon the Independent Broadcasting Authority to play its role in providing protection to the media through existing statutes to ensure that media
houses operate independently”, he added.