By Scoop Reporter
THE Zambia Police must to stop harassing journalists by summoning them to police stations on flimsy accusations, the Media Liaison Committee (MLC) has demanded.
MCL chairperson Enock Ngoma has told The Scoop this morning that on Monday this week, Lusaka based journalist Jajah Coulibaly was summoned to report himself to Kabwe Police in Central Province on a charge of defamation.
Mr. Ngoma says on arrival at Kabwe Central Police station, a warn and caution statement was recorded from him even after it emerged that police had nothing to link the journalist to the case in question.
He says it was established that the purported defamation story which was carried online, was authored by someone else whose name was even on the story, and police only asked Mr. Coulibaly if he had given any information to the author of the said story.
“We wish to advise Government, through Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Dora Siliya to recognise that hostility towards the media in Zambia is on the increase and this has steadily reduced journalists’ freedoms and suffocated their working space.
“The latest case involving Mr. Coulibaly is a clear indication on how the State is using the police to clamp down on the media. And as MLC we call for an immediate stop for the police to be used to witch-hunt in the media industry making journalists targets of unfounded suspicion and making us doubt the proclaimed professionalism in the Zambia Police Service. Mr. Coulibaly travelled to Kabwe at a high cost,” Mr. Ngoma said.
He says he believes Ms. Siliya can do a bit better to help bring sanity and help protect the journalist who has now become endangered species in Zambia by liaising with her counterparts in relevant Government Ministries to ensure the operating environment for the journalist is conducive.
He has appealed to the Inspector General of police and his rank and file to work towards protecting the journalists rather than harass them in their line of duty.
He has also urged media practitioners to continue being brave and courageous in giving coverage to all Zambians in their pursuit of duty, as long as they are professional and ethical in their reporting.
“We further note that we are coming from a background where operating licences for private broadcasting stations have frequently been suspended or withdrawn because Government has disagreed with certain broadcasts, as evidenced by the recent closure of Prime Television for reasons that could have been dealt with amicably.
“Political party thugs have on many occasions stormed media houses damaging equipment and harassing media personnel for no apparent reason, other than featuring opposition politicians on programmes,” he said.
He says he has trust that Ms. Siliya, who herself has a media background, will appreciate this increasingly unhealthy scenario and act to meaningfully enhance the media environment in Zambia than allowing security wings to keep harassing the media.