Media Alert / MISA-Zambia

Two journalists suspended in Zambia, one chooses early retirement

MISA Zambia

MISA-Zambia Alert
22 October 2013

The following Media Alert was prepared by MISA-Zambia. Contact Jane Chirwa at info@misazambia.org.zm for more information. 

Times of Zambia has suspend News Editor Enock Ngoma and Chief Reporter Kaiko Namusa over a missing document that is said to have been faxed to Times Managing Editor Godfrey Malama from the Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary Emmanuel Mwamba carrying allegations against an embattled Minister of Justice who is also the General Secretary of the Patriotic Front (PF) ruling party Honourable Wynter Kabimba. The Secretary General of the PF is the third in command in the ruling party.

According to media reports and investigations undertaken by MISA Zambia, the Times of Zambia is alleged to have suspended the two journalists indefinitely because a fax containing allegations against the justice minister found its way in a private newspaper; The Post and could not be traced at Times of Zambia offices. This is despite the allegations in the fax being published in the Times of Zambia newspapers.

The story in The Post was headlined Situla explains ‘Fourth Republic’ scheme’ and carried an allegation which read as follows:

“And The Post has learnt that the copy of a letter dated October 9 and addressed to Situla, whose address was indicated as Winter Kabimba and Associates Law firm and in which Kamalo was announcing his resignation from the Fourth Republic party, was faxed from Mwamba’s office fax line, 235410 at 08:27 on October 11.”

Background
There is an ongoing fight in the ruling party, PF, between two senior officials. This has led to journalists in the private and state-owned media getting caught in the cross-fire.

Suspicions abound that a powerful group within the ruling party is working to oust the Minister of Justice based on tribal lines and through use of various strategies that included maligning his character.

Allegations were also made by the Justice Minister that the Information Permanent Secretary was interfering with operations of the state owned media at the time when the country was developing confidence in the levels of independence in such media.

According to The Post newspapers of 4 October 2013 under a story headlined  “Mwamba’s conduct displeases Kabimba”. Kabimba made the following accusations against Mwamba:

“I have a duty to protect the majority interest in this country against turncoats whose objective is to serve narrow personal interests of their paymasters. Your insidious activities since you assumed your new position come against the background when members of the public were beginning to show some confidence in the renewed professionalism of the public media under the PF government. This trend is now gradually going in reverse again,” read Kabimba’s letter to Mwamba dated 3 October.

Kabimba said he had phone Mwamba about two weeks ago to express his concern about one of his pronouncements as was reported in the print media, regarding what Mwamba referred to as the practice by some ministers being accompanied by preferred reporters while on government duty outside Lusaka.

“In the last week, I have seen several headlines against me in the Zambia Daily Mail and Times of Zambia which were so personal in nature and style that they were unexpected from the government media against a sitting minister of government. His Honour the Vice-President Dr Guy Scott alluded to this on Saturday, 29th September, 2013 during his interview with The Post Newspaper. One would have thought that you and your colleagues would have taken a leaf from His Honour the Vice-President’s comments over this matter. I have also received reports that you personally ordered the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) to limit coverage of my stories,” read the letter.

The PF Secretary General stated that Mwamba could not in this respect be President Sata’s protégé more than him as he would want to project in the manner he intends to politicise the public media.

Kabimba further stated that by copy of the letter to Mwamba, he would like the minister of information and broadcasting services Mwansa Kapeya, to advise him on the steps that his ministry intends to take to save the public media from imminent collapse again.

But Mwamba alleged that Kabimba had been phoning him and threatening to dismiss him as permanent secretary.

He accused Kabimba of threatening media heads from Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail, ZNBC and individual reporters with dismissal and unknown punishments.

Mwamba said the ministry should be allowed to run its affairs without intimidation.
He said Kabimba should address his grievances to superiors and not in a letter to him.

Mwamba said he had not received the letter which had been circulated to media houses and whose contents had been read out to him.

MISA-Zambia position
The Media Institute of Southern African (MISA) Zambia has raised concern over the continued infighting in the ruling party that has sucked in some journalists.

MISA Zambia Chairperson Nalumino Nalumino said the fight, if not adequately addressed by the ruling party leadership, would affect more reporters in both the state and privately owned media. He called for the immediate reinstatement of the two suspended reporters and an end to victimization of professional journalists who have refused to be comprised and take sides.

He called on politicians and some media owners to desist from pursuing unknown interests and ensure the safety of the journalists and also the space for them to operate professionally. He urged the politicians not to play to the gallery while innocent journalists’ jobs were at stake while some were being forced to resign due to victimisation.

For more information:
Jane Chirwa
MISA-Zambia Information and Research Officer
Email: info@misazambia.org.zm

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