NO one can deny that for some time now the bond between Journalists and police in Zambia has been like that between a cat and a rat.
Stories of harassment of scribes by police continue to make news in huge tomes each passing day, yet this is hardly necessary.
We think this growing traditional preconception against journalists and standardization of criminalizing them should not be allowed to grow its roots in Zambia.
Those making fervent protests against the police for totally ignoring the safety of journalists and brutally trampling on their right to reporting issues freely truly deserve a listening ear.
The press being the fourth estate, we think, government has a moral duty of promoting the safety of journalists and fighting impunity for those who attack them.
We note also that often attacks on media professionals are habitually perpetrated in non-conflict situations by organized local police, making Zambian journalists among the most vulnerable.
These attacks normally take the forms of harassment, intimidation, illegal arrests, and arbitrary detentions and they are well known.
Impunity for crimes against the media fuels and propagates the cycle of violence and the resulting self-censorship robs society of information and further affects press freedom.
It directly impacts the United Nations’ (UN) human rights based efforts to promote peace, security, and sustainable development.
Admittedly the police in Zambia is working under very arduous conditions, but that should not give them gateway to continue taking measures and actions that threaten the freedom and safety of the Zambian journalists.
We strappingly feel that time has come for government or is it the police to search for very possible lines of action to stop any forms of crimes against journalists in Zambia.
We are talking about Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) condemnation of the harassment and subsequent arrest of Chingola’s Rise FM Radio presenter Derrick Chilufya by police on August 12.
This was after more than 60 job seekers who were promised employment which was not given to them by a company known as Mox Minerals Limited went to the radio station to express their grievances.
MISA chairperson Helen Mwale has explained that Police officers went to check on what was happening at the radio station where they started beating the job seekers.
In the process they spotted Mr Chilufya answering a phone call as he was coming out of the studio and suspected that he was taking a video of what was happening.
“We view this harassment of Mr Chilufya by police officers who are expected to protect him but who rather with impunity turned around to harass him as an exhibition of clear unprofessionalism and unrestrained impunity which must be checked,
“MISA Zambia would like to remind the police that they are the law enforcers and as such they should aim at protecting and provide law and order to the people in Zambia and not harass them,” Ms Mwale said
Ms Mwale advised the Zambia Police Service to act in a professional manner and not contribute to the erosion of the little faith Zambians still have in the service.
“The police must effectively address concerns like this to prevent a repeat of such violations in future. We urge the police to refrain from acts of human rights violations in their enforcement of restrictions provided for the enjoyment of such rights.
“Freedom of expression is a fundamental right to all Zambia as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia, regional and international Instruments to which Zambia is a party of. The media is a public good which serves all kinds of people,” she said
We can’t agree more with Ms Mwale that it is the obligation of the media to inform the public on issues that affect their wellbeing and should not be maltreated for executing their duty.