Lusaka, 11th December, 2023 —
The Zambia Free Press Initative is saddened by reports of harassment of journalists by Police officers at Parklands Lodge in Kitwe during a press briefing by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party President, Kasonde Mwenda, on Monday morning.
In a statement today, FPI founder and Executive Director Joana Chirwa said the police ordered journalists to stop recording the event and instructed that them to delete footage, pictures and recordings of the press briefing. We are alarmed by these are illegal acts that were aimed at intimidating journalists into submission.
She said the harassment of journalists by the police officers at a press briefing is a violation of press freedom which is guaranteed in Article 20 (1) of the Constitution which police officers are actually duty-bound to uphold and protect.
And Ms. Chirwa noted that it is unacceptable, affirming that such harassments could lead to an environment of self-censorship where journalists cannot exercise their independent judgement with regard to news coverage as expected in a functional democracy built on the rule of law.
She said the incident of police suppression of journalists at that briefing is an outright affront to democratic freedoms and access to information by journalists who act as a conveyor a belt between the State and non-state actors.
Mrs. Chirwa has since demanded that government expedites the process of repealing and replacing the Public Order Act as any continued delay will be understood to be a deliberate move by the UPND government aimed at maintaining the current situation where police can harass journalists in the name of the current Public Order Act which is draconian.
And Ms. Chirwa urged the Zambia Police to change its culture and work with journalists as partners in information dissemination and appreciate the role they play in a democratic country like Zambia instead of brutalising them.
“The review of the public Order Act is also important to guarantee the safety of journalists during the 2026 elections which are around the corner and will risk more journalists suffering at the hands of police officers in the name of disrupting illegal assemblies.” Ms. Chirwa said.