And Free Press Initiative (FPI) founder Joan Chirwa says the sentencing should send a strong warning to all political party cadres, regardless of affiliation, that assault on journalists will not go unpunished.
In a statement, MISA Zambia chairperson Helen Mwale stated that the sentencing was timely.
“MISA Zambia welcomes the sentencing of Frank Mwale, a Patriotic Front cadre, who has been handed a two-year custodial sentence for the assault of Chipata’s Breeze FM Journalist, Grace Lungu. The judgement, which was passed on 6th April, 2020, is timely and serves as a warning to any other would-be offenders in the country that violence in whatever form against journalists is against the law and such culprits will be brought to book,” Mwale stated.
“MISA Zambia is happy that this judgement, indeed, shows that the State does not condone violence against journalists and, therefore, value their work. We are congnisant of the Presidential directive made in May of 2019 urging Zambia Police to deal with any cadres perpetrating violence against journalists. Therefore, this judgement is testament to this commitment by the President.”
She also said that the sentencing gave media practitioners confidence to seek protection when their rights and freedoms were violated.
But Mwale urged the authorities to continue the pursuit for justice by convicting all those responsible and perpetuating violence against journalists.
“This judgement also gives us confidence that the media can seek protection when its rights and freedoms are violated. Therefore, we call on authorities to continue the pursuit for justice by convicting all those responsible and perpetuating violence against journalists. Further, we urge journalists and media not to relent in their pursuit of their freedom and justice. We are happy that justice has been served and that the Zambia Police in Eastern Province value the work of the media as they did assist Lungu when she reported the matter to them. The judgement arose from an incident in which Lungu was assaulted by the 41-year-old Chipata businessman during the Mkomba Ward Local government by-election on 12th February, 2019. The assailant, together with other people, beat Grace and the driver of the vehicle she had booked, Lengani Kanyinji,” she added.
“In a case, which started last year, the Magistrate Court in Lundazi has found Mwale guilty of assault and theft and sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment on the count of assault, and on the charge of theft of K400 belonging to Lungu he has been handed a two year suspended sentence. This sentencing is an important sign that the perpetrators of crimes against journalists will no longer evade justice. We urge authorities to actively pursue their investigation and continue identifying the masterminds and all those behind assaults against journalists.”
Mwale further urged politicians to exercise maximum restraint by letting the media operate in a free environment void of harassment and intimidation.
“Political party cadres should know that journalists have a duty to investigate, disseminate, research and inform, hence they should not be hindered as they carry out their noble tasks. We urge all politicians to exercise maximum restraint as the media are merely carriers of news and must be left to operate in a free environment void of harassment and intimidation for the benefit of the public,” stated Mwale.
“We would like to echo the words of wisdom from President Edgar Lungu by saying that journalists should not be covering political activities, whilst watching over their shoulders for fear of being lynched and that no one is above the law. Citizens need a free flow of information for them to make informed decisions. And it is a well-known fact that elections are highly-dependent on the free flow of information, something which the Zambian media is trying so hard to provide.”
And in a separate statement, Chirwa stated that the sentencing should send a strong warning to all political party cadres.
“The FPI Zambia welcomes the jailing of a Chipata PF cadre to two years’ imprisonment for assaulting Breeze FM journalist Grace Lungu. Grace was assaulted by Frank Mwale, while covering the Mkomba Ward by-election in February, 2019. The judgement passed by the Lundazi Magistrates’ Court on Monday, April 6, 2020, should serve as a strong warning to all political party cadres, regardless of affiliation, that an assault on journalists will not go unpunished,” stated Chirwa.
“Journalists deserve total protection and freedom to carry out their duties. Inflicting fear in them through assault is a serious injustice not only to the journalism profession, but the entire nation as the press serves as the Fourth Estate in a democracy. As we approach the 2021 general election, we hope all political party cadres will use this case as an example to refrain from violence against journalists. We’re elated that justice has finally been served and we thank Grace for not yielding to pressure to drop the case, and MISA Zambia and BBC Media Action for the spirited fight in this matter.”