MUCHINGA Province police commissioner Joel Njase says the summoning of Mpika radio staff by officers for hosting Democratic Party president Harry Kalaba is wrong and unprofessional.
And Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) chairperson Helen Mwale has described the summoning of the Mpika Radio staff as a hindrance to the free flow of information.
In an interview, Njase said he did not have any information on what had transpired in Mpika, but hastened to add that police had no mandate to regulate the media.
“I don’t have that report but will follow up. Police have no mandate in any media related programmes because we don’t supervise or regulate the media. If that happened, then that is wrong and unprofessional on part of the officers. We shall endeavour to uphold the bill of rights,” said Njase.
And Mwale said there was no law that mandated media institutions to get permission from police in order to host any citizen.
“Where is it written in the law that hosting a Zambian on radio station permission should be obtained from the police? It is not in the powers of the police to summon the radio station when they host a Zambian citizen or anyone. The duties of the police is to provide security and protect us and not to be dealing with issues of running of media houses. That is why we have the regulator, IBA. Only IBA has the power to request for a recording and not the police. If it is a criminal offence, we challenge the Zambian Police to tell us when it became a criminal offence for any radio station in this country to host someone? What are the issues that the police are looking for? If Mr Harry Kalaba is a criminal let them deal with him as a criminal and not as a person that is going to speak on the radio,” Mwale said.
“One thing that the police should know is that, maybe I need to educate them a bit, media houses are there to provide a platform for exchange of views. They are there to ensure that citizens have access to information. When Mpika radio featured Mr Kalaba they allowed for freedom expression; (ii) they ensured that the people of Mpika had access to information; (iii) they provided a space for citizens to debate so that the can make informed decisions or make better choices on whatever decision they want in their lives. So what is wrong with that? If Mr Harry Kalaba committed an offence, if Mr Harry Kalaba insulted, can they deal with Mr Kalaba as a criminal outside the radio station and not to interfere in the operations of the radio station.”
Mwale said it was unlawful for police to threaten Mpika radio staff if they had failed to provide the recording of the programme.
“So we would like to challenge the police, when did it become law that the radio station should not put opposition party leaders? When did it become law that when a radio station features someone then they should provide a recording for them? What is it they are investigating? So we challenge them to take Mpika Radio to the courts of law, if Mpika Radio committed an offence,” said Mwale.
“We do not see any sense in them summoning the radio station or asking for the provision of the recording. We would have understood if it was IBA because IBA is the regulator and IBA do sometimes ask for [any recording]. So we cannot in our own way agree with the police that Mpika Radio must provide the recording, that is not fair and that is injustice and a hindrance to free flow of information. It is interference with the operations of the radio station and we would like to ask the police to desist from such behaviors.”
Police in Mpika on Monday summoned Mpika Community Radio management for featuring Kalaba on one of their programmes.
In an interview, Mpika Radio station manager Allan Dumingu said his team was summoned for not getting permission from the police to host Kalaba.
Dumingu said the police further threatened to arrest them if they did not surrender a recording of the programme to the officers.