MISA Zambia has condemned the beating up of journalist Lovemore Phiri of Pasme FM in Petauke, Eastern Province by UPND cadres during his breakfast radio programme where callers were calling in on the topic of fertilisers distribution.
The attack on Phiri occurred in the early hours of Friday, 4th November, 2022 by suspected UPND cadres who stormed PASME radio and interrupted a live programme that was discussing farmers preparedness for the 2022/23 farming season.
MISA Zambia Chairperson Fr. Barnabas Simatende, OMI said the media body is concerned by violent acts against journalists and called upon Zambians to condemn the attack on Phiri.
“MISA Zambia condemns the attacks on PASME Radio station in Petauke District of Eastern Province by suspected United Party for National Development (UPND) Cadres.The cadres who forced their way into the on-air studio beat up Mr Lovemore Phiri, who happens to be a reporter and presenter at the radio station and further, caused damages to the studio equipment, resulting in the radio station going off-air.As if that was not enough, around 08:15hrs another group of suspected UPND cadres drove into the radio station and chased after Mr. Phiri who had to run away upon seeing the vehicle driving into the radio station premises. The cadres managed to catch Mr. Phiri in a nearby neighborhood attacked him physically and threatened to kill him. Mr. Phiri, was rescued by members of the community who ran to the scene,” Fr. Simatende said.
“MISA Zambia is deeply concerned by these acts and calls upon all well-meaning Zambian to condemn them. These acts do not only pose a threat to media freedom and freedom of expression in the country but are a danger to our democracy. The acts are also an attack to the Head of State who has shown commitment towards the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms of expression and the media. We wish to express our disappointment with the UPND in Petauke District for beating up an unarmed presenter and causing damage to the radio station which provides people of Petauke with a platform to exercise their democratic right to freedom of expression. We wish to remind the UPND that media freedom and freedom of expression is a constitutional right that should be enjoyed by every Zambian. The UPND cadres are out of order and their actions should not be tolerated any further,” he said.
Fr. Simatende said Republican President Hakainde Hichilema and the UPND leadership must discipline the suspects in question as their actions do not reflect the true reason why Zambians voted for UPND.
“We further commend the members of the community for coming to the rescue of Mr. Phiri and ensuring that his life is protected. We call upon all Zambians not to relent but to continue fighting for their democratic right of freedom of expression and for the media to operate in a friendly environment. We would like to bring this matter to the attention of the Republican President and the UPND leadership to discipline the suspects in question as their actions do not reflect the true reason why Zambians voted for them,” Fr. Simatende.
Meanwhile, President of the Socialist Party Fred M’membe has charged that under President Hakainde Hichilema’s watch threats of violence and attacks against journalists by UPND cadres are not properly investigated or prosecuted.
“Today journalist Lovemore Phiri of Pasme FM in Petauke was beaten up by UPND cadres during his breakfast radio programme where callers were calling in on the topic of fertilisers distribution. His UPND attackers are known but no arrests have been made. We need to counter threats of violence and crimes against journalists to protect freedom of expression for all. Ending impunity for crimes against journalists is one of the most pressing issues to guarantee freedom of expression and access to information for all citizens. We mustn’t allow journalists to be beaten for reporting the news and bringing information to the public. And those who attack, assault journalists must not go unpunished. Impunity leads to more attacks and is often a symptom of worsening lawlessness and the breakdown of law. Threats of violence and attacks against journalists, in particular, create a climate of fear for media professionals, impeding the free circulation of information, opinions and ideas for all citizens,” Dr. M’membe stated.
Dr. M’membe has since urged all Zambians of goodwill to rise, reject and denounce the growing UPND violence against journalists.
“Under Mr Hakainde Hichilema’s watch threats of violence and attacks against journalists by UPND cadres are not properly investigated or prosecuted. This impunity emboldens the perpetrators of the crimes and at the same time has a chilling effect on society, including journalists themselves. We are concerned that this impunity damages the whole nation by covering up serious human rights abuses, corruption, and crime. We urge all Zambians of goodwill to rise and reject, denounce this growing UPND violence against journalists. This will send a powerful message that the nation will not tolerate attacks against journalists and against the right to freedom of expression for all. Only free journalists can be the vigilant watchdogs of the public interest against the temptation on the part of those who wield it to abuse that power,” Dr. M’membe said.