IN the face of rising attacks on media houses by political party cadres, information and broadcasting services permanent secretary Amos Malupenga on Friday took the protest to Lusaka Police Headquarters demanding increased protection of journalists.
In petitioning the police, Malupenga flashed a placard with the inscription “TOP COP PLEASE PROTECT OUR JOURNALISTS” before handing it to deputy Inspector General of Police for administration Richard Mweene, who was standing in for Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja.
Malupenga told Mweene that the Ministry of Information had been receiving several calls from people who wanted to know what it was doing to protect journalists.
He explained that the government was for free press and a safe working environment for journalists but was saddened by attacks on journalists and media houses.
He said his visit to the Police headquarters was to petition police to protect journalists, especially that President Edgar Lungu had assured them of protection.
He said journalists had become vulnerable, especially that the country was heading towards a general election.
“Journalists are more vulnerable towards elections because of the nature of their job. I came here to police headquarters to lodge in a complaint on their behalf. I have been receiving numerous calls about what the Ministry is doing with regards to their safety. The Head of State has made his stance clear on this matter and the onus is on police,” Malupenga said.
Also present at the “protest” was Media Institute of Southern Africa Zambian chapter chairperson Helen Mwale.
“The environment has become unbearable for journalists to operate in. Journalists are failing to do their work freely because there hasn’t been any assurance from police that their safety will be guaranteed,” Mwale told Mweene.
In response to the petition, Mweene flashed a placard of his own with the writing “THE ONUS TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS AND THE REST OF THE PEOPLE IS ON US THE ZAMBIA POLICE”.
He said the Zambia police still needed to “pull up its socks” in winning back public confidence.
Mweene said the police had no excuse failing to perform their duties when the commander-in-chief was on record in ordering them to do their job.
He pledged to double police efforts in working to protect journalists.
Mweene said police values the role of journalists in exposing crime hence the need to protect them.
“We will have a series of seminars with journalists and come up with strategies of how we will protect them. We also want to hear their challenges so that we incorporate best strategies of how to protect them,” he said.
He announced that already, police had arrested four people from among a group of PF cadres who attacked Chete FM in Nakonde on March 10.
Mweene said police followed the matter the following day and managed to arrest the suspects who were currently detained and would appear in court for the offence of assault.
He said police were not afraid of cadres, noting that the service had arrested cadres irrespective of their affiliation.
“Police would like to warn those that would want to abrogate provisions of the law with impunity that they risk being arrested and prosecuted. Zambia is a democratic country, all persons and groupings should be allowed to express their views freely,” he said.
Recently, Zambia Union of Journalists (ZUJ) representatives expressed worry about the safety of journalists when they paid a courtesy call on President Lungu at State house.
President Lungu assured journalists that the state will not allow anyone harass them during execution of their duties.