PF Deputy Spokesperson Frank Bwalya says the harassment of radio mano journalists by cadres from his Party is justified and that any political party has the right to complain if they feel that they are not adequately covered by certain media houses.
Mr Bwalya said PF members were aggrieved with the manner in which Radio Mano was operating as it did not cover President Lungu during the the tour of Eastern and Muchinga Provinces.
He said people should remember that he was removed as station manager for radio Icengelo because the then ruling Party, the MMD was not happy with some of the things he was doing at the station.
“What I have been made to understand is that PF members were not happy with the news coverage on radio mano during the time the president was in eastern Province and Muchinga but mainly during time the President was in Muchinga.
“According to the PF members the President was not covered even single time on any one of the news bulletins and the stories that were being g covered on the news bulletins were anti-government or anti-PF. Now you may want to remember that I was radio Icengelo station manager for 8 years. As matter of fact I was removed from radio Icengelo because MMD was not happy with what I was doing at the station that a different matter altogether and don’t want to make it a subject of any story but I just wanted to remind you about that,” he said.
He added “The complaint on members of the PF in my view is genuine, genuine in the sense that every political party has a right to complain when they think that the news coverage is biased.”
He also said the media should be accountable.
“The media is also suppose to be accountable to the same people that they make accountable, however, there are reports which are not verified and I they are a subject of propaganda, that instructions were given to attack radio mano, to attack specific journalists at radio mano, the truth is that there was a banner at the airport and the President told the cadres to pull it down because he was not happy with it,” he said.
Mr Bwalya also said radio Mano is a community radio station which should stay away from partisan politics.
Meanwhile, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia chapter Chairperson Helen Mwale has warned all those involved in any acts aimed at intimidating the staff at Radio Mano station to immediately desist, reports Pan African Radio Journalist Hermit Hachilonde.
Ms. Mwale said Radio Mano is within its operational right in line with its mandate of offering a platform for information and public debate.
She said if anything happens to anyone at Radio Mano, MISA Zambia will not hesitate to take stern action to censure all those involved especially that high ranking PF members are at the centre of this violation against the democratic freedom of the press to offer a platform for participatory governance.
Ms. Mwale said it is outrageous that some PF officials blatantly fortified cadres by saying a lawyer will be provided to take care of the cadres should there be anyone arrested for attacking Mangani on allegations that the station was offering coverage to the opposition political parties.
She stated that it is disappointing to receive such a report especially that barely a day after the head of state advised the Zambian people, including PF cadres to desist from acts of violence and the two Senior PF officials are now linked to the case of inciting violence against journalists at the Radio station.
Ms. Mwale has however advised PF provincial leaders in Kasama to appoint a spokesperson to be issuing statements on behalf of their political party instead of encouraging cadres to go to the radio stations to issue statements.
She said MISA is closely monitoring the situation on the ground as it develops at Radio Mano in Kasama, ISO FM, Breeze FM, Chikaya Radio and Kariba FM and will announce the course of action to be taken soon.
Ms. Mwale further noted that MISA is equally monitoring the cadres who seem to have gone on rampage country wide attacking and interfering with the operations of several media houses in the country with a view to coerce them to black out the opposition.
“We would like to warn all those involved to immediately desist from any acts aimed at intimidating the staff at the radio station which is within its right to operate in line with its mandate of offering a platform for information and public debate”
“MISA will not hesitate to take stern action to censure all those involved especially that high ranking party members are at the centre of this violation against the democratic freedom of the press to offer a platform for participatory governance” she said
And United party for National Development Hakainde Hichilema has released the following statement to the media on Radio Mano issue
Radio Mano Under Violent Threat from PF
Reports that the popular and privately-owned Radio Mano Community station in Kasama has been forced to shutdown following threats of being set ablaze by known PF thugs is further evidence of the increasing levels of lawlessness in the country.
Even worse, the abuse, intimidation, and threats made to Radio Mano journalists and the station reportedly happened in full view of President Edgar Lungu himself, as well as representatives of law enforcement agencies such as the police.
President Lungu saw and heard for himself the unruly behaviour of his PF thugs in Kasama who roughed up the Radio Mano journalists on arrival at Kasama Airport on Tuesday this week and threatened to set the station ablaze, but to date no decisive action has been taken and Radio Mano reporters have now abandoned the station for their safety.
The closure of the popular station and other atrocities against journalists are not only an affront to the fundamental rights of media freedoms and freedoms of expression, but it has also led to direct and indirect job losses in the country, already suffering from massive job losses and lack of employment opportunities. In addition, a large chunk of Northern Province has also suddenly been denied a vital tool of information needed for betterment of their lives.
The PF thugs have been on rampage since 2011 when the PF won elections and the situation has now escalated to include innocent journalists, political opponents and other citizens under Lungu’s leadership.
If they could dehumanise journalists and other opponents in full view of Lungu himself and threaten to set ablaze the radio station, we wonder who is safe in Zambia these days.
There is clearly a breakdown in law and order that points to Lungu’s lack of leadership, because in a normal situation the perpetrators and their known sponsors in the Kasama incident would have been arrested and charged for threatening violence and other offences.
This is what we have been saying in the UPND that there is serious selective application of the law in this country as ruling party cadres always go scot-free even when they have committed serious crimes, such as stripping off women in full view of the police.
As UPND, we have been subjects of abuse, derogatory remarks, hate speech and all sorts of provocation from PF leadership using public media institutions, but we have never resorted to thuggery, and in instances where we have felt aggrieved, we have sought justice through the courts of law.
Meanwhile Lungu’s calls to end violence, impunity and thuggery in the country have clearly never been genuine but just public relations stunts meant to hoodwink the Zambian people as no action or justice for the victims has followed.
We call on all law-abiding citizens to demand justice in the country. One way to achieve this is by removing the PF Government in August.