MISA Zambia condemns police harassment of journalists covering the arrival and subsequent questioning of the United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema at Ndola Central Police station this morning.
The harassment of the media practitioners which included the brief detention of one reporter and the barring of others from covering the operation has left us in utter shock and disbelief.
One wonders when it became an offence for journalists to cover an individual who appears at the police station for questioning particularly in a matter that is in the public’s interest.
It is our view that any attack or harassment of journalists or media houses is not only a violation of the media’s freedom to seek and share information, but is also an infringement on the citizens’ democratic right to seek, receive and share information through their preferred platforms.
MISA Zambia reiterates that the media plays an important role in facilitating development at local, national and international level. The media provides a platform for citizens to engage with each other on development issues of concern to them, and enables citizens to dialogue with duty bearers and other stakeholders, thereby contributing to improved participation of citizens in decision making.
These media freedom violations by the police are unacceptable. Journalists must be able to freely carry out their duties. We call on the authorities not to obstruct their work. The Police should not see journalists as enemies to be harassed and touched at will.
The police should not forget the role played by the media in the country. They should not ignore the fact that members of the Fourth Estate play a crucial role in this country’s democracy.
We therefore call upon the relevant authorities to take necessary action against overzealous officers.
All Zambians of goodwill should condemn such behavior, as such acts will kill freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the constitution.
To the media practitioners let us not forget that ours is one of the most important jobs and no amount of intimidation, harassment, physical assaults and arrest should deter us from this calling. Let us continue to report without fear, favor but responsible.