It is said “he who comes into equity must come with clean hands”.
And Herbert Hoover noted that, “It is a paradox that every dictator has climbed to power on the ladder of free speech. Immediately on attaining power each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own.”
On Monday, Edgar Lungu was guest of honour at the commemoration of the 2021 World Press Freedom Day, which was held at the Freedom Statue in Lusaka. Indeed, it was probably the first time that a president of Zambia has officiated the journalists’ day, in our country, that is commemorated annually to recognise and honour the work of the media.
In his address, Edgar made certain remarks that are interesting. He appeared to play victim.
Edgar said that Journalism’s first obligation was truth. This is absolutely true. Any journalist or media house that rides on falsehood and untruths has no legs to stand and cannot last.
Edgar also said: “This is why it is disconcerting that some owners of newspapers in this country have suddenly become politicians and are using their publications to spew out their manifestos; but more worrying to attack the rest of their rivals. This arrangement obviously gives undue advantage to such politicians and in an election year like this one that creates a very slanted playing field. It is bad enough to have a media house owned by an individual who openly supports one candidate; but it is dangerous to the nation to have a presidential candidate owning a media house for purposes of running for president. They will not just use their publication for propaganda, but they will ruin the careers of their journalists whose credibility will be questioned.”
This is what Edgar said. These words of Edgar are coming from a hypocritical heart. He was being hypocritical about the whole thing. And his targets were very clear. His intention too to isolate and paint journalists from some private media houses that are operating under harsh environment, whose high priest is Edgar himself, black are also clear. Why should he be allowed to hang independent media this way?
Edgar has taken monopoly over the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) channels in Radio 1, 2 and 4; ZNBC TV1, TV2, TV3; the Zambia Daily Mail and Times of Zambia newspapers, including a surrogate newspaper outlet; and a number of PF inclined media/ social media outlets and platforms that he uses to the exclusion of his competitors. He has even gone on to abuse the public order Act to exclusively make the PF the only party that can mobilise and in a fraudulent manner! But he seems not satisfied with all these channels at his disposal.
Edgar also has the Zambia National Information Service, which has been documenting government political development programmes. By extension, it can be said that the whole PF manifesto is emptied through these channels. As Edgar daily uses these outlets, his competitors, with equal rights as Zambians and taxpayers, are discriminated against. Opposition political leaders and their parties cannot access these channels. Only Edgar’s minions enjoy coverage even over the most useless of issues. When they cough, it must make headlines!
Coverage of the opposition is basically non-existent in the public media, which should have been Edgar’s concern as the one who is currently holding office in people’s trust. His concern should have been freeing the public media to serve all Zambians. He should have praised the few private media houses that are providing a platform for all players – those in government and those in opposition – and not chastise them and blacklist their journalists. This is absolute failure of leadership.
As long as access to public media is made a preserve of Edgar and his government and party officials, others will find means of being heard through other outlets.
Someone stated that, “If the Titanic had reached New York, it would have been just another ship ride. The fascination lies in the failure.”
As we have stated on numerous occasion, we have never seen a person as destructive as Edgar. Michael Sata bequeathed him a very good party, today it’s a shell – Edgar has destroyed it.
Edgar found a relatively strong multiparty democracy, today Edgar has reduced it to a de facto one party dictatorship “in everything except in name”. He found a political environment where an opposition party could freely mobilise and win elections. But today Edgar has created a brutal and intolerant regime where only he and his minions can politically be seen and heard. He has completely destroyed the political environment that enabled the Patriotic Front to freely mobilise and win elections in 2011.
Edgar has destroyed the plurality of our society. He found a society where there were many different voices, today only those voices that praise and sing Hallelujah to him and ignore his heinous deeds can be heard.
Edgar found a thriving and courageous news media, today Edgar has brought it to its knees with closures, threats and intimidation.