(By Christopher Miti and Richard Luo)
MISA-Zambia chairperson Hellen Mwale says a police docket has been opened against Chipata Central member of parliament Moses Mawere for threatening Prime TV reporter Oswald Yambani. Mwale also wondered why the PF cadres behind the beating of Breeze FM reporter in Lundazi in February and those who issued death threats on Radio Maria news editor have not been taken to court.
On Monday night, Mawere, who is also sports minister, threatened to sort out Yambani for televising what he termed as a “nonsense” story. However, addressing members of the Chipata Press Club on Wednesday, Mwale who was on a fact finding mission on media violations in the province said issues of threats against journalists would not be taken lightly.
“We are not going to take these threats lightly. We cannot have the junior members of the [PF] party threaten and beat up, threaten to kill journalists. Then we also have people we hold in high esteem, senior ranking officials in the party, also go down to those levels to threaten the journalists. Who gave them the right that journalists are to be played with? These are lives of individuals that we are dealing with! Who gives Mr Mawere the right that he should threaten a reporter like that? This is a reporter who tried to call him, this is a reporter who sent him a message and this is a reporter who says ‘I will get back to you Sir in case these people come back to me for more comments’ and he [Mawere] says ‘you will see’,” she said.
“I want to ask you people a question, who among you were ‘sorted out’ by Mr Mawere, because that is his statement. If you heard it correctly, he said ask ‘your friends in Chipata they came begging to me’; what did he do to you? And why haven’t you reported all this long? We have opened a docket so far! We only hope that Yambani’s life will be protected, but should anything happen to Yambani, should anything happen to him we have Mr Mawere to hold responsible because he issued those threats to that journalist. He may think he is safe now because he is a minister and he is protected by the law, we’ll use the law to pursue him.”
Mwale said Mawere should not think he was clever by issuing such threats. And on death threats issued on Radio Maria news editor Tobias Daka by PF cadres, Mwale wondered why the police are not taking the matter to court. The cadres, led by Eastern Province PF treasurer Zephaniah Mwale and provincial youth chairperson William Phiri threatened Daka after the Catholic-run station hosted Maxson Nkhoma who is also a PF member but holds a different view.
Mwale said in as much as provincial PF chairperson Andrew Lubusha apologised to Chipata Diocese Bishop George Lungu, the culprits had been set free by the police which was a big concern for MISA.
“This issue does not end at apology level. The fact that the church has forgiven them does not give them the freedom that they cannot be prosecuted. If anything the apology from Mr Lubusha was rendered to the Bishop who was not a victim but the head of the church which runs the radio station. He apologised to the church but what about the media? How safe are we? What assurances are we getting from them that these violations will not occur? As MISA we feel that there is more that can be done in order for us to work in a free environment,” Mwale said.
She said MISA would like to find out from the police on why they have not taken to court the issue regarding Breeze FM reporter Grace Lungu who was beaten by PF cadres during the Mkomba ward by-election in Lundazi in February. Earlier, the press club highlighted a number of issues affecting the media in Chipata and parts of the province. Meanwhile, Eastern Province UPND information and publicity secretary Mususa Mwambula has urged the PF government and its members of parliament to fulfill their promises than waging war against reporters who are just doing their job. In interview, Mwambula said the threat by Mawere to deal with Yambani II was a clear indication that lazy members of parliament or leaders do not want their weakness to be exposed.
“The lazy leaders will always fight with the media because they don’t want their inefficiencies to be exposed. It’s now a custom in PF government to wage war with media houses. Honourable Mawere should bear in mind that reporters don’t get things from their head but they get things from the community and if he wants to wage war, he has to do it with the aggrieved people of his constituency who have complained bitterly about his laziness,” he stated.
Mususa said what lazy leaders should do when their inefficiencies were exposed was to correct the situation.
“Honorable Mawere, my brother, it is the duty of a reporter to report grievances which the community has. Chipata people complained that this man is not delivering according to what he promised during campaigns. So don’t threaten the reporters, just do what you promised during campaigns because threatening the reporters won’t make the community stop complaining about your failures and even deciding to vote you out come 2021,” Mususa warned.
He said Mawere’s actions were a sign that he is not a good Minister of Youth and Sports.
“Mawere is a PF MP who doesn’t want justice as all he wants and all they want in PF government is not to be exposed of their failures by media houses and we have seen so many media houses who have faced battles with this government just because at one time or the other they reported the truth about them but such situation is very bad in a democratic nation like Zambia. So I want to urge honourable Mawere of Chipata to distance himself from cheap and fake threats as his threats won’t take him anywhere. In fact, his threats won’t change anything in professional reporters. In fact, it will just allow media houses to expose his failures more. Let’s be mindful what we say to some people because our own words might destroy our procession,” advised Mususa.