Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia has welcomed the sentencing of a PF cadre Frank Mwale, who has been handed a 2-year custodial sentence for the assault of Chipata’s Breeze FM Journalist Grace Lungu.
MISA Zambia Chairperson Hellen Mwale said the judgement was timely and serves as a warning to any other would be offenders in the country that violence in whatever form against Journalists is against the law and such culprits will be brought to book.
Ms Mwale said the judgement shows that the state does not condone violence against Journalists and value their work.
“We are cognizant of the Presidential directive made in May of 2019 urging Zambia Police to deal with any cadres perpetrating violence against journalists, therefore, this judgement is testament to this commitment by the President. This judgement also gives us confidence that the media can seek protection when its rights and freedoms are violated and we deem it a victory for the media,” she said.
She said that justice has been served and that the Zambia Police in Eastern province value the work of the media as they did assist Grace when she reported the matter to them.
The judgement arose from an incident in which Lungu was assaulted by the 41-year-old Chipata businessman during the Mkomba Ward Local government by-election on 12th February, 2019. The assailant together with other people beat Grace and the driver of the vehicle she had booked, Lengani Kanyinji.
In a case which started last year the Magistrate Court in Lundazi have found Mwale guilty of assault and theft and sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment on the count of assault and on the charge of theft of K400 belonging to Lungu he has been handed a two years suspended sentence.
This sentencing is an important sign that the perpetrators of crimes against journalists will no longer evade justice. Therefore, political party cadres should know that journalists have a duty to investigate, disseminate, research and inform, hence they should not be hindered as they carry out their noble tasks.
To this end, we urge all politicians to exercise maximum restraint as the media are merely carriers of news and must be left to operate in a free environment void of harassment and intimidation for the benefit of the public.
“We would like to echo the words of wisdom from President Edgar Lungu by saying that journalists should not be covering political activities whilst watching over their shoulders for fear of being lynched and that no one is above the law. Citizens need a free flow of information for them to make informed decisions. And it is a well-known fact that elections are highly dependent on the free flow of information, something which the Zambian media is trying so hard to provide,” she said.