Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services permanent secretary Chanda Kasolo has challenged journalists to investigate corruption claims as opposed to “pushing agendas of people who are simply trying to gain political mileage”.

And Kasolo has called for stiffer punishment for people found perpetuating violence against journalists in the country.

Speaking when he graced the MISA Zambia 17th annual media awards, Friday evening, Kasolo said claims of corruption must be investigated so that those found wanting can face the law.

“I urge you where you find somebody saying, ‘oh, there is corruption in government there is corruption where’, go and interview them, go and get the facts because some these people are lying for the sake of trying to attract attention and be relevant to the political sphere of Zambia. I urge you to play a role, interview them, get the facts and if indeed some people are corrupt, let’s get them tried by the courts of law and if convicted, have them locked up, that’s just good for Zambia, it is good for the people of Zambia and the poor people that are in rural areas,” Kasolo said.

He reiterated government’s commitment to promoting media freedom in the country.

“The government’s commitment to media freedom is undeniable, the government has liberalized the media sector in Zambia and therefore, we have a lot of new radio stations, over 140 radio stations that we, the government, we have licensed. And 99 per cent of those are in private hands with their owners having a view of their own with no undue influence from government. You have TV stations, over 40 in the country, the only limiting factor for TV and radio are frequencies, and once we run out of frequencies, then we have to go back to ZICTA to see if they can expand the range. But otherwise, we encourage people to come forth, those that are interested in making sure that their influence not only goes on in Zambia, they can come and hire licenses and set up a TV station,” he said.

“So where we get criticized as a ministry that we are trying to step on the toes of journalists and the media, don’t believe it, that’s a joke to me, that’s a joke to my minister, Hon [Dora] Siliya. You will find that the door is open and we have had to enjoy having fraternal relations with you guys. You criticize us, we try and also criticize you, but why we do that, we try to pull your standards up and I believe in changing wherever I go and work, so I am hoping that by the time I finish my stint at this ministry that journalism will be much, much prudent, that reporting will be much more objective and professional, that those that believe in lies and innuendos and so on, would disappear down the tubes of T’s and C’s, citizen journalism. You are going to be called professional journalists and the sooner that begins, the better.”

Meanwhile, Kasolo called for stiffer punishment for people found perpetuating violence against journalists.

“So it’s not fair. I think we need to look at the laws where violence leads to such sort of stage that these people must be locked up for a long time. We cannot tolerate violence against journalists, you are only trying to earn a living, we should not stop you earning a living. Nobody stops them earning a living as cadres. The government values media as a partner in national development, we cannot get the message across to the people of Zambia without you. You are pretty important to us and also you are pretty important in the promotion of democracy and good governance in Zambia,” said Kasolo.

“While we acknowledge the shortcomings such as violence against the media, government has not hesitated to show leadership by directing the police to arrest cadres that are perpetuating violence against the media. That must continue, the last time this happened, the President himself directed that the people who had done the attacks in Chipata and Kabwe must be arrested and taken to court. It touches me tremendously and I keep going back to one example where a young journalist in Eastern Province was involved in harboring a political event, he was attached by cadres and urinated into his mouth. That guy, his life has been changed forever. All I could do at the time was to instruct the police to make sure they arrest the perpetrator and they did. He was taken to court and he [was] only paid a paltry K5,000 but psychologically, this young man is damaged.”