Southern Province Police Commissioner Bonny Kapeso says Sinazongwe District Commissioner Protacio Mulenga and a ZNBC reporter may be summoned for questioning for giving false and alarming information to the public.
And Kapeso has also blamed the ZNBC journalist who compiled a report stating that about 40 people had been shot dead in Sinazongwe by unknown assailants, without verifying facts with his command.
On Tuesday, ZNBC ran a story in which District Commissioner Mulenga was filmed briefing Southern Province Permanent Secretary Mwangala Liomba, of the crime rate in the District.
Although the Police Officer In Charge was present during the time when the District Commissioner was briefing the Permanent Secretary, and did not correct the information, Kapeso insists that both the DC and the journalist are responsible for misleading the public.
Journalists have protested to Kapeso in his WhatsApp group, but the police chief has remained adamant.
The argument started on Wednesday when one of the group members posted a ZNBC news video clip in the group, which Kapeso rubbished as not having come from police.
“That information did not come from the police. DOO, OOP do not speak for the police. Let’s just agree that as journalists, let’s always verify information because we are trained. The reporter could have just phoned me in order to balance the story, period!” Kapeso stated.
But the journalists’ group members argued that it was possible that the Permanent Secretary was fed with wrong information which was given to the DC by the local police.
However, Kapeso insisted that the journalist who authored the story should have done the needful pursuant to journalistic ethics.
“I’m in charge of police, including Sinazongwe, and I have said that information did not come from police. If it came from us, why would I refute our own information? PS and DC are not trained in journalism. You are there to ensure a balanced story is written. If I were your editor, I would not run your story until it’s verified by competent authorities. I would not relent on this subject because I am a journalist. Our brother quoted the DC, but the point is that, he should have balanced the story! ‘If the DC said so, what did the police responsible for security say?’ Not everything that glitters is gold. The last paragraph should have reflected police position on those alarming statistics because alarming the nation is a criminal offence! We may even call him for questioning to help us with such investigations. It was professionally wrong to send such a story,” insisted Kapeso.
And in his statement, which he issued later, Kapeso refuted the statistics, saying that they were alarming figures.
“We wish to categorically refute the story running on social media headlined “40 shot dead in Sinazongwe” as not just misleading, but also sensationally alarming to the nation. What is true is that, from January to-date, police in Southern Province have recorded 68 cases of murder throughout the province with 38 arrests made out of those reported to us. These murder cases do not only involve shootings, but also incidents of deaths arising from gender-based violence; ordinary fights and spearing of suspects regarding issues of land wrangles, and suspected practice of witchcraft as well as issues of infidelity, among married couples,” stated Kapeso.
“It is surprising that the author of the story did not confirm with my office as normally is the practice by professional journalists. The nation should, therefore, dismiss the authenticity of the story as it lacks credibility and objectivity.”