Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) executive director Wesley Chibamba has condemned the Zambia Police Service for denying the private media access to cover President Edgar Lungu’s address during the Labour Day Commemorations yesterday.

In a statement, Chibamba wondered how this years’s Labour Day theme, “Build Partnerships For Sustainable National Development Through Decent Job Creation and Social Justice” would be achieved if public officers like the police kept on harassing the media who are key stakeholders in this process.

Chibamba wondered if government’s decision to introduce cyber laws to regulate the use of social media was just one of the ways for the state to control objective voices in society or curtail divergent views.

“TIZ is greatly dismayed with what transpired at the Labour Day celebrations where private media houses were hindered from capturing the presidential speech in full view of the republican president (Edgar Lungu) while ZNBC was given full access. As an organisation that works to promote good governance, we are obliged to remind those in power of the importance of press freedom and access to information for democracy to thrive. It is rather discouraging that state security wings including Zambia Police can conduct themselves in such an unprofessional manner, Chibamba stated.

“Only public media, in particular ZNBC, was given preferential treatment to cover the presidential address. In a country that prides itself in democratic dispensation, this is an attack on press freedom and democracy itself, especially when the country is celebrating an important day which appreciates the labour force of this country and media is inclusive of this labour force.”

Chibamba questioned government’s intentions behind the introduction of cyber laws in the country.

“What makes us wonder is how we are going to ‘build partnerships for sustainable national development through decent job creation and social justice’ if we keep on harassing the media who are key stakeholders in this process? Is this the reason why we are in a hurry to impose cyber laws so that we can control the objective voice or those with divergent views? ” he asked.

Chibamba regretted that journalist from the private media were being harassed at a time when the country was just days away from commemorating the Press Freedom Day which falls on May 3rd, every year.

“The press freedom day is being commemorated a few days from now, yet we still have our media personnel harassed by people that should protect them. We urge the police and other state security wings to remain above board and professional. The problem is that we have overzealous officers who believe muzzling the press is a way to impress their bosses. Very shameful indeed. We hope the top bras in these institutions will address this issue,” stated Chibamba