ZIIMA PRESS STATEMENT ON SHRINKING MEDIA SPACE IN ZAMBIA
THE Zambia Institute of Independent Media Alliance (ZIIMA) wishes to express its concern with the increasing number of acts by State actors which are shrinking the space for media practitioners, and also creating an environment which criminalises the practice of critical and good journalism.
ZIIMA has witnessed a sharp rise in threats and physical attacks on journalists in the last two years the United Party for National Development (UPND) have been in government, despite the Party and Republican President Hakainde Hichilema, at the time of his inauguration, having assured the media of provision of a safe working environment.
For the record, SABC correspondent Arthur Davies Sikopo was recently summoned to Police headquarters and had his equipment confiscated; journalists at the Zambia Daily Mail, namely Stafrance Zulu, Conrad Chikweto and Chongo Sampa, were fired for taking pictures of Zambians lining up to buy mealie- meal which was in short supply at the time.
The latest case is the arrest of Thomas Allan Zgambo, who has been slapped with a charge of sedition, in a move that seems calculated to continue a campaign of intimidation against media publications critical of the UPND government. This is a step towards dictatorial rule in Zambia.
The UPND and its leadership were ushered into office in the August 2021 elections after campaigning on a platform promising enhanced freedom and democracy. It is therefore worrying to note that most of these promises have not been kept and, in fact, the opposite is fast becoming the norm. There is increasing harassment and intimidation of people working in the media, especially those identified as critical of the ruling party.
For example, in the case of Thomas Allan Zgambo, ZIIMA has noted sadly that he has been denied both bond and medical attention he clearly requires.
ZIIMA would like to advise the UPND government to reconsider the negative stance it has taken towards journalism practitioners, and work to provide an environment that enhances media freedom so that the fourth estate can contribute positively to improved governance in Zambia.
Journalists should not live in fear of reprisals from their own government for simply being critical or helping to check government excesses. Zambian society is best served by objective, critical and fair media, not by an increased number of publications singing praises of government’s every move.