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.
Malupenga held up a placard with the words “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 Kakoma Kanganja.
Malupenga told Mweene that the Ministry of information had been receiving calls from people who wanted to know what it was doing for the protection of journalists.
He explained that the government stood for free press and a safe working environment for journalists but was saddened with attacks on journalists and media houses.
Malupenga said his visit to the Police Headquarters was to petition police to protect journalists especially since President Edgar Lungu had already assured them of protection.
He said journalists had become vulnerable especially as the country heads towards general elections in August.
“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 Hellen 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.
Responding to the petition, Mweene flashed a placard of his own with the words “THE ONUS TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS AND THE REST OF THE PEOPLE IS ON US THE ZAMBIA POLICE”.
He said the Zambia Police Service still needs to “pull up its socks” in winning back public confidence.
Mweene said the police had no excuse failing to perform the duties when the Commander-in-Chief was on record ordering them to do their job.
He pledged to double police efforts to protect journalists.
Mweene said the police service 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.
Mweene further announced that police had arrested four people from among a group of PF cadres who attacked Chete FM in Nakonde on March 10. He said police followed up the matter the following day and managed to arrest the suspects who are currently detained and would appear in court charged with assault.
Mweene claimed the Zambia Police was not afraid of cadres, noting that the service had arrested cadres regardless 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 concern with the safety of journalists when they paid a courtesy call on President Lungu at State house.
The President assured journalists that the State would not allow anyone to harass them in the execution of their duties.
Kalemba March 15, 2021