This statement was originally published on misa.org on February 25, 2017.
MISA Zambia condemns, in the strongest terms, the action by the state and police actions to suppress the Mast Newspaper in addition to the earlier harassment and assault of Mutinta Mazoka-M’membe during an attempted search in the absence of her husband five days ago.
We are concerned that the state fight is no longer about the closure of the Post Newspaper instigated by the government and the Zambia Revenue Authority, but now a war to close down any media house deemed to be critical.
There is no connection between The Post Newspaper in Liquidation and The Mast Newspaper owned by Mutinta Mazoka and we seriously urge the State and the Post Newspaper Liquidator to stop the unwarranted moves to destroy Dr M’membe and any critical private media.
As MISA Zambia, we are appalled by this high level of hypocrisy being exhibited by the state, that while the Justice Minister has indicated to the Zambians that the Access To Information (ATI) Bill will presented to Parliament, government is diametrically opposed to media freedom and development, and freedom of expression going by its sensitivity to criticism or dissenting views.
In a democracy such as Zambia, the critical mass of the people should not be subjected to monolithic, biased news singing praises to the government, unleashing propaganda against channels of independent voices especially that Zambia claims to be a model democracy in Africa.
Zambia has actually lost credibility as a country with a flourishing media industry due to state and police appetite to clamp down and muzzle the media. MISA Zambia is further disturbed that the gagging of the media appears to be a war targeting Dr. M’membe-a private citizen and his family, while President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has paid a blind eye, with the police seemingly appetised to inflict pain on private citizens.
The events of the past few days are evidence of pure state brutality against which all Zambians must now stand. It is worth noting that elections are over, and we should as a country be focusing on how to reunite the country and not the vindictive attacks we are witnessing on a daily basis.
It is further disturbing that while the Ministry of Information is calling for professionalism in the media industry, government agencies are bent on closing down independent media voices, and this is anathema.
We therefore demand that government forthwith stop the illegal and vindictive efforts to uproot the printing press of The Mast Newspaper which they intend to execute on Monday after failing yesterday. As MISA Zambia we wish to warn government and police that this level of brutality and gagging of the media will soon backfire and the day of reckoning will soon come.
We urge all Zambians to stand for and defend the freedom of the media. This war is beyond Dr. M’membe, Mutinta Mazoka and the Mast; it is an attack on our fundamental freedom of expression as citizens. We should not, as citizens therefore, detach ourselves from this state sponsored brutality against the media as it has the potential to infringe on us all.