Police accused of persecuting media

A CONSORTIUM of civil society organisations has accused the Zambia Police of being regulators of the media. The consortium comprises, among others, the NGOCC, FODEP, MISA Zambia, Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD), Operation Young Vote (OYV) and Action Aid Zambia. Consortium spokesperson Sarah Longwe told journalists at a media briefing in Lusaka that the police had become the centre of the violation of fundamental media freedoms. Ms. Longwe stated the oppression of the media by police proved that there was a de facto police state in the making. She said there was in fact a systematic move towards a one- party system in the country. “While we acknowledge the police’s legitimate role in maintaining law, order and security in the nation, we are deeply concerned that only dissenting views, those critical of the ruling party and Government, are being targeted in this apparent preservation of security. “These recent happenings where the police seem to be used to stifle the freedom of the press suggest that there is a de-facto police state in the making in the country and a systematic move towards a one-party system,” Ms. Longwe said. She disclosed that the consortium had since written to President Edgar Lungu to act and bring to a stop what she termed as ‘‘persecution’’ of the media with immediate effect. Ms. Longwe, who is also NGOCC chairperson, appealed to the Head of State to immediately state his position on the matter. She stated that the police had now become regulators of the media, saying that other freedoms would be equally affected if nothing was done immediately. “We have written to the President and asked him to immediately act and bring this persecution to an end as we feel he has the absolute power to do so, especially that he publicly swore to uphold the Constitution of Zambia,” she said.