MISA Zambia has demanded an apology from Chipata Central PF member of parliament Moses Mawere who threatened Prime TV reporter Oswald Yambani for airing a story in which his constituents complained against his absenteeism.

On the Monday evening, Prime TV aired a report by Yambani in which some Chipata residents lamented that Mawere, who is also Minister of Sport, Youth and Child Development, had abandoned his Constituency from the time he was elected.

But Mawere called Yambani after watching the report and accused the reporter of being sponsored by the opposition UPND, whilst threatening him.

Commenting on the development in a statement, Tuesday, MISA chairperson Hellen Mwale warned Mawere to desist from such “thuggery behaviour” and instead deal with the issues had raised against him.

She said if anything happened to Yambani, the minister would be blamed for it.

“MiSA Zambia is exceptionally concerned by the escalation of attacks against journalists by political supporters. The month of May, 2019 has demonstrated once again the toxic nature and out-sized reach of political harassment against journalists, and we demand that it stops. We strongly urge the ruling Patriotic Front to take firm steps to ensure accountability for violence, threats and attacks against journalists. As MiSA Zambia, we are grossly aggrieved by the persistent and systematic attacks – both verbal and physical to the media. Whenever the media brings out the short comings of our politicians, they have rushed to heap the blame on the media, accusing the practitioners of doctoring the news to blackmail and cast them in bad light. Latest in these episodes is the attack on Oswald Yambani of Prime Television who was last evening verbally warned by Chipata Central member of parliament Moses Mawere through a phone conversation over a story that was aired on the main news of the television station,” Mwale stated.

“Hon. Mawere should know better that if people have concerns about published work or broadcast, they are encouraged to use the complaints channels already in place. This includes the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) complaints procedure. And if Hon. Mawere is aggrieved by the works of the media, he can also resort to courts of law for legal redress rather than threatening individual journalists and the media houses in general without singling out individual media houses or journalists, so that his plight can be heard in a court of competent jurisdiction. MiSA Zambia obviously accepts that politicians have a right to speak their mind and raise their concerns about the media and its perceived biasness, but we ask them to rather engage editors and media houses that employ them. Hon. Mawere should work to create an environment which promotes mutual cooperation rather than resort to confrontation and therefore abusing freedom of expression and the media.”

Mwale stated that Mawere’s threats could not be taken lightly because he is a cabinet minister who wields a lot of power.

“Mr Mawere’s threats increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence and are designed to undermine confidence in reporting. Therefore, we would like to warn Mr Mawere to desist from this thuggery behaviour and instead deal with issues the people of Chipata Central are raising. He must also know that should anything happen to Mr Yambani, he will be to blame. Attacks on journalists are an attack on freedom of speech and freedom of the press – pillars upon which any democracy must be built. The attacks are a threat to democracy, raising the alarm over a political philosophy that is emerging of scapegoating journalists. We call on all politicians in the country to publicly affirm support for press freedom and journalists’ safety,” stated Mwale.

“We are also asking for an apology from Mr Mawere to the individual journalist who has been targeted as well as to journalists in general, coupled with recognition of the Constitutionally protected role played by journalists in our society. We also urge members of the press to be professional in their work, vigilant and work together in ensuring their safety and security. The managers and editors should work hand in hand with their reporters and media development organisation to advocate for a conducive and safe media environment.”