‘Criminalise dressing down of journalists’

THE Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) has called on authorities to criminalise storming of newsrooms to prevent unauthorised individuals from harassing and threatening media personel.

And ZEC has joined other organisations condemning Minister of Youth and Sport Chishimba Kambwili, Patriotic Front (PF) and Government officials for harassing Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) director of news and current  officers Kenneth Maduma and newsroom staff.

ZEC communications director Winfield Kunda said people who storm newsrooms to harass journalists should be prosecuted because media personnel were defenceless.

He said in a press statement issued Tuesday that journalists should stand up and resist being undermined, insulted and dictated to by people who were not their editors.

“The storming of newsrooms by anybody should be regarded as crime and such a person must be prosecuted to prevent future occurrences of such behaviour because for so many times defenceless journalists have fallen prey to harassment, threats and intimidation.

“These events repeat themselves many times especially during elections; it’s a call therefore on the media organisations to find a lasting solution to this trend with the support from civil society organisations, church and people of good will,” Fr Kunda said.

He said press freedom demands that the media was free from intimidation, physical violence or threats from the Government

“It also implies being free from government censorship.  Let Journalists, especially those working for the public broadcaster and the print media, work freely to provide the public with credible and reliable news stories from the diverse point of view. Journalists should only be answerable to the truth,” he said.

He said the latest development of harassing and threatening media personnel by some politicians and Government officials was setting a bad precedent and was a hindrance to professional journalism in Zambia.

Fr Kunda said history should not repeat itself by allowing harassing and threatening acts against journalists to continue in Zambia.

“Journalists are professionals and best positioned to select what news and information the country should listen to and read. No one in the government should become the editor of the public broadcaster or print media,” he said.

Fr Kunda said journalists should stand up and resist being undermined, insulted and dictating to by people who were not their bosses.

He appealed to journalists to be objective, impartial, fair and balanced when covering politicians during the presidential by-election campaign.

Fr Kunda said the media might polarise the nation if it did not remain factual and truthful.

“Journalists as very important people in the sustenance of our democracy. They should avoid being sensational on messages that are coming out of political rallies and distinguish politics from real issues because they,” he said.

Fr Kunda cautioned people to be careful when reading some of reports on online publications. He said some of the reports on some online publications leave much to be desired and were painting Zambia negatively to the outside world.

Fr Kunda said it was paramount that citizen should cross-check facts before they could trust anything that they were reading from the internet.

“All we want during this campaign period is credible, professional and well balanced news as we prepare for presidential elections in January 2015,” Fr Kunda said.