It’s outright criminal to invade citizens’ privacy – Katema

IT is unethical and outright criminal for media houses and their personnel to illegally record private conversations of their unsuspecting sources and causing the publication of the same without their permission, Information and Broadcasting Minister Joseph Katema has charged.

Dr Katema has since called on the law enforcement agencies and other State security wings to immediately institute investigations into the secret and illegal recording of a private conversation Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda was having at his residence.

Dr Katema has warned that the Post Newspaper committed an illegality by going to Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda to record a private conversation without his knowledge and blackmailing him with it.

Dr Katema told the Daily Nation that media houses should not be allowed to commit criminal acts on the guise of media freedom because that was tantamount to abuse of friendly media laws.

The Information and Broadcasting Minister said he had warned media houses that it did not help to break laws and use media freedom and freedom of expression to defend their illegal and criminal actions.

He said media houses would have themselves to blame should the law enforcement agencies take action against their criminal acts such as invading citizen’s privacy.

Dr Katema said it was important for media houses to strictly follow the law in the execution of their duties and should be mindful that it did not pay to infringe on other people’s right in the name of freedom of the media.

He said as much as the media enjoyed its freedom to work without restriction, it was important to avoid tramping on other citizens’ rights because that would be seen as an act of irresponsibility.

He explained that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting would not be held responsible if the Post Newspaper was going to suffer the consequences of its illegal action of invading the privacy of citizens.

He advised media houses and their personnel to adhere to their ethics adding that it was being unprofessional to blackmail sources using privately and illegally recorded transcripts,

“It is unethical and outright criminal for media houses and their journalists to invade the privacy of citizens, record their conversations and later publish them. I have always warned my colleagues in the media to stick to their ethics and avoid breaking the laws in the name of freedom of the press. For those that are breaking the law, the investigating wings of government should visit them because it does not help to break the law and use media freedom to defend the action. In as much as you enjoy your freedom, be mindful not to tramp on other people’s rights,” Dr Katema said.

He said media houses should avoid abusing the freedom they were enjoying as such freedoms came with responsibilities.

The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) says it has embarked on a research to establish the gravity of the offence of secretly recording conversations of citizens and publishing them without their consent. LAZ president George Chisanga said the association would on Monday issue a comprehensive statement on the matter.