Traffic officers in Chiptata this morning totured Muvi TV reporter Oswald Yambani, locked him in their office and pepper-sprayed him in his eyes.
According to an eye witness, the incident happened along Umozi Highway around 09:20.
“There was a fracas here in Chipata. I saw about three officers trying to arrest a motorist but he was resisting, you know how they can be. So while that was going on, one of them turned around and noticed that Oswald was filming the incident. They grabbed him, confiscated his camera. He tried to hold on to a fence but they harassed him and they threw him into their office. They locked him in the office and they sprayed the room with some tear gas,” narrated the witness.
“After about 30 minutes, I think his office in Lusaka heard about the news and the commissioner was informed and I am told he was very angry. The last time I saw Oswald was when he was going to get checked at the clinic.”
When contacted, Yambani confirmed that he was detained and pepper sprayed.
“Yes, they pepper sprayed me even in my eyes,” said Yambani.
And Eastern Province police commissioner Alex Chilufya said the traffic officers would be disciplined.
“I refer to this morning’s situation involving our Traffic Officers and Mr. Oswald from Muvi TV. I confirm that there was a misunderstanding arising from a street filming of officer’s operations which caused an overreaction on the part of some of our Traffic Officers against Mr Oswald. The latter was taken to the Police Station but I wish to state that my office intervened promptly to avert any further misplaced action against the Journalist. My Office invited Mr Oswald for a discussion and regretted his mishandling. However, an amicable, mutual understanding and appreciation were reached,” stated Phiri.
“Consequently, appropriate administrative action will be taken against erring officers. Police Command fully values the services rendered by our Journalists and we shall always endeavour to promote and entrench rapport and partnership with our Journalists in the interests of the common good for the people of mother Zambia.”
Meanwhile, the Livingstone Press Club hailed Phiri for his quick intervention but urged him to publicise the disciplinary action.
“As Livingstone Press Club, we wish to condemn the alleged mistreatment and harassment of Chipata Press Club president Mr. Oswald Yambani by some Chipata based traffic officers. We are however consoled to hear from the Provincial Commissioner of Police for Eastern Province, Mr. Alex Chilufya has distanced himself from such acts and even assured us that adminsitrative actions will be taken against the erring officers. Our appeal is that such disciplinary actions must be made public to set an example to others who still plan to engage in such in unfortunate acts,” stated Livingstone Press Club president Brian Hatyoka.
“The harassment, intimidation and attacking of journalists must come to an end. We need to carry out our mandate of informing, educating and entertaining the nation under a favourable environment and therefore the police must protect journalists because they are one of our key stakeholders.”