Sympathisers of corruption-accused Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela have threatened to petrol-bomb News Diggers offices in Lusaka if the newspaper continues to write negative stories about him.
And News Diggers Managing Director and Editor-In-Chief Joseph Mwenda has reported the matter to Lusaka Central Police where an inquiry file has been opened.
Mwenda explained that since the newspaper published the “Corruption Trail” exposé involving Chitotela on February 7, 2019, some anonymous callers have been warning him to stop ‘scandalising’ the minister or face serious consequences.
“The minister’s case is in court now, and we have been guided by the Honourable Magistrate in handling the case to let the prosecution take its course without any prejudice, so we cannot repeat to the public what we published in that exposé. But what happened is that, after that exposé was published, we got some anonymous individuals, whom we believe are the minister’s sympathisers, warning that we must stop scandalising Honourable Chitotela. I couldn’t make any follow ups on those threats because the individual was using an unknown number. We did not understand why we would be getting such threats because as far as we are concerned, the story on Honourable Chitotela was like any other story that we publish every day – factual!” Mwenda said.
“We have nothing against him, he is a man that we talk to and he has called us before when he felt we wrote an editorial comment that was harsh on him, and we justified our position to him without any fight at all. After that “Corruption Trail” exposé, he has not called us to complain and neither has he written us a demand letter claiming defamation. To our surprise, these threats have continued every time we publish editorial comments on corrupt government officials. On Tuesday, I got a call from a well known PF member who, out of good will, alerted us that some PF youths had been funded to petrol-bomb our offices. He went on to give us the names of the youths who were mobilising others for this operation. Within an hour of that alert, I got another call from a police officer, who again out of good will, advised us to clear valuables from our offices because he had very reliable intelligence that our operating premises had been targeted. Obviously, this officer could not help us any further than alerting us for fear of victimisation.”
Mwenda said he surrendered the names of the suspected PF youths to the police.
“The police informant directed us to report the matter to Central Police, which we did yesterday (Tuesday) and we have given those names to the investigators. The police did not take the matter casually, they opened an inquiry file and we are very confident that, even if they fail to act, they will get the facts. Now, we wonder who is funding these youths to attack us, but we want to assure them that such threats only make us stronger. What is important to us is to make sure that we remain professional; we never abuse the power of the pen through our publication to scandalise innocent citizens or eminent persons. Even if they petrol-bomb News Diggers and eliminate us all, so long the work we are doing is for the greater good of this country, another courageous group of journalists will see the need to rise up and continue from where we would have left,” said Mwenda.
“It is also important for those who are planning evil against us to know that what we publish is not hearsay. Our ears are on the ground and we hear a lot, but we don’t just publish without making sure that we can prove what we report. If a minister demands for an expensive rolex watch, as a gift from a contractor who has won a government tender, we will not just publish that as a scandal, we first try to look around and put all the pieces together, so that we can tell a complete story. Our readers must be assured that we have only just started. The “Corruption Trail” is not the last exposé, there is plenty more to come.”