Hon. Cornelius Mweetwa Was Not Misquoted And We Stand On Our Decision To Publish The Audio- KBN TV

Cornelius Mweetwa



As a media house, we are alive to many debates, interpretations, insinuations and conclusions being peddled by various state and non-state actors regarding the question whether or not it’s professional to record a private conversation and later publish it.

If that’s the only consideration, anyone asking such a question has already taken a stance and made their tilted conclusion without giving due regard to broader ethical considerations that informs the judgement whether to publish a private conversation or not.

Through this editorial, we want in particular to settle arguments in the minds of those asking such questions. For instance, our media colleague at State House, Clayson Hamasaka, who is the State House Communications Specialist sent us the question below that we will attempt to respond to alongside others.

“I might be from the old school. Back in the days there was what was called source confidentiality. Is it professional to record a private conversation with your source who considers you a friend and later leak the conversation? The case of Cornelius Mweetwa and Innocent Phiri of KBN?”

We do not know, who raised the above question and where, but it’s important to give context that the question was forwarded to us by Mr. Hamasaka. In our considered view, there are many ethical considerations to be made before a media house arrives at a decisive and bold move to forego “friendship” in the interest of public good, especially when such matters involve public figures.

In dealing with the question above from Mr. Hamasaka, let’s take a moment and ask a few questions. One of the questions is to establish, who is Innocent Phiri? He is a mere simple Journalist, making a living as a professional journalist at KBN TV. And who is Cornelius Mweetwa? He is a long time Member of Parliament and law maker, spokesperson for the ruling party, Information and Media Minister who is also Chief Government Spokesperson.

A quick glance at the portrait above will show you that Mr. Cornelius Mweetwa is a very powerful figure in our society, more powerful than Innocent Phiri. Mr. Mweetwa is our line minister in media and naturally, the power play here would dictate that the weaker journalist must give a favour as requested by the minister whether it is in conflict with your conscious or ethical considerations – forget the patronizing language used in the audio “I’m just your creature, be my ambassador, you are my friend.”

The next set of questions to consider is what’s the role of a journalist? It’s to professionally gather and disseminate news that promotes public good, morality and also holds those in power accountable to the public. What is the role of the Chief Government Spokesperson? It’s to communicate Government policy position on any matter of public interest.

Having considered all the above, we must go back to what really necessitated that unsolicited phone conversation from the Minister to Innocent? It’s because Mr. Mweetwa was under immense pressure both from within and outside Government and we fully understand that an emissary was sent to him, asking that he should retract his statement that the UPND Government worked with Mr. Chishimba Kambwili to issue tribal remarks to injure the popularity of the former Head of State President Edgar Lungu.

In trying to manage the backlash, the Minister was under pressure to correct the narrative and we believe he must have called other “friends” to help him with perception management. If he called IP alone, then we are grateful for the vote of confidence that KBN TV alone can correct communication gone wrong in Government.

Before the Minister called IP, he should have been aware what news judgement KBN TV employed when covering his press conference. Did the Minister utter the words he is disputing? Yes he did. How did KBN TV report, KBN TV reported based on the shocking revelation that there was veiled collaboration between his Government in promoting hate speech, which is a crime for which Chishimba Kambwili is serving a jail sentence under appeal.

In his phone submission to IP, the minister says what he uttered shouldn’t have been news in any serious media house. Implicitly, he is claiming we were unprofessional but he can offer to “pay” a journalist to correct the impression and his view, paying a journalist is more professional than quoting him correcting!

Let’s assume IP and the Minister were friends. What’s the nature of their friendship? What other favours has the Minister requested from his friend and was there any promise for payment attached to their previous exchange of favours? If there has been none, why was so peculiar about this case?

On the other hand, as a Minister sitting in a privileged position courtesy of the Zambian people, what favours has he extended to the weaker journalist before so that he can also proudly feel obliged to return those favours? If the Minister with all the trappings at his disposal has never extended any favours to someone he calls a friend, then he is banking on his position of power to get undue advantage from a weaker journalist.

This brings us the crux of the matter. Mr. Mweetwa was speaking in what capacity? Obviously in his capacity as Chief Government Spokesperson. If there is need for crisis communication within the Government communication command, how many communications experts are employed and are drawing a salary within Government at the Ministry of Information, State House, Cabinet? They are many!

The BIG question then is why should Government seek crisis communication help from a private individual in the name of friendship over a government policy pronouncement that has gone rogue? Why did Mr. Mweetwa see it wise to overlook services of communication experts employed by the Government and are drawing a salary for that very cause?

All things considered, there is nothing wrong with friends helping each other. Friends help each other without promising favours or payments in return, that changes the complexion of the conversation. Mr. Mweetwa didn’t call Innocent as a private friend, the matter under consideration was not private in nature, it was one with a lot of overriding public interest.

Our Minister expects his journalists to work and behave professionally, we just demonstrated that offering bribes to journalists is what is killing professionalism in the Zambian media industry.

We stand on our news report, Mr. Mweetwa was not misquoted and we stand on our decision to publish the audio. In our view, to whom much is given, much is required.


  1. Well done. Clayson Hamasaka doesn’t know his job. His is limited to matters concerning presidential pronouncements. He has business dealing with matters concerning his minister’s mistakes or indeed opposition parties.
    Lastly, there is nothing private when a minister approaches a journalist asking him to undertake a job bordering on public interest.

  2. I am reminded of PK Chishala’s song where a woman living in an abusive marriage refuses to clean the vomit and sh!t of the husband. Ati pwete pwete pwete… aya mafi wanya yena nshapipe.

  3. Guys Mweetwa was not misquoted! He mispoke. So there was nothing wrong for him to reach out and try to put the record straight. At his presser no one asked him any question to clarify exactly what he was saying. This why the Zambian journalists are criticised for lack of professionalism. By leaking the video you have also exposed yourself of lacking journalism ethics and integrity, because even in the phone call you didn’t put on the spot by asking him probing questions. You agreed with everything that he said on the phone. To make things worse you did not inform him that you were recording him. He has the right to sue you for that if he so wished. As a news outlet you have exposed yourselves, because no one can come to you with a breaking news story. Shame on you!

  4. A serious news outlet would ask itself questions on Mweetwa’s assertion if indeed UPND was behind Kambwili’s unethical tribalism champaign, so to KBN UPND also forced Lungu to give Kambwili tax payer funded chopper to fly around the country preaching hare speach? It is common knowledge that what Kambwili did in 2021 is a repeat of 2016. Kambwili went around doing what he did in 2021 using a tax payer funded chopper at the command of Lungu. You guys should learn to investigate stories instead of just writing things without interrogating them. The fact is Lungu gave Kambwili a choper he used in 2016 and after elections when Lungu fired Kambwili there was an outcry from his brother that he fired Kambwili after he had campaigned and won him an election. Come 2021 Kambwili as a convict was given a choper by Lungu to go and campaign without any restrictions. You want us to believe that Lungu would just let him do it if was not in his interest? You all know that Kambwili was following orders to buy his freedom. After the elections, he had his freedom Lungu expanged his conviction. Stop this lazy journalism. If you want stories go out and investigate in the field. A good story will not come and fall into your lap while sitting in the office. You have broken the journalism ethics and you can’t remain in that job.

  5. The bottom line is Mr. Mweetwa uttered something that did not make sense and he has to take full responsibility. It is not for the news station to spin what he says. They just present it as he said it.

    I was shocked by what he said in relation to Mr. Kambwili’s tribal tirades. To make matters worse, he fluffed the damage control. Mr. Mweetwa has himself to blame for th is unfortunate turn of events. As for his right to privacy, he is a public figure and what was discussed in the audio is of public interest.

    He should be careful what he says, especially in public. He should not be carried away by the excitement of the atmosphere.


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