A CONSORTIUM of civil society organisations say Honeybee Pharmacy Limited’s maneuvers to discredit and shut down News Diggers! through letters addressed to statutory bodies in the hope of finding breaches are attempts to curtail the freedom of the press and intimidate independent media houses.

In a joint statement, Wednesday, Chapter One Foundation, ActionAid Zambia, Alliance for Community Action, Caritas Zambia, CISCA, the Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD), Transparency International Zambia and the Zambia Council for Social Development roundly condemned Honeybee’s relentless harassment of the publication as unwarranted, saying without investigative journalism, Zambians would be unaware of the toxic drugs, defective gloves and condoms supplied by Honeybee.

“We, the undersigned civil society organisations, strongly condemn the threats and harassment of News Diggers!, a registered independent media house, over their investigation into Honeybee Pharmacy. We further deplore the weaponisation of statutory bodies at the instance of Honeybee Pharmacy in an apparent attempt to seek retribution for the stories released by News Diggers! over the supply of defective medicine, gloves and condoms by Honeybee Pharmacy. Such a response to effective investigative journalism is indicative of a lack of understanding of freedom of speech, the right to fair comment on issues of public interest and the freedom of the press,” read the statement.

“Without the investigative journalism of News Diggers!, the public would not be aware of the defective medicines, gloves and condoms supplied by Honeybee Pharmacy, which may have reaching effects on unsuspecting members of the public. The investigative journalism of News Diggers! led to the said pharmacy publicly facing the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee in which these issues were comprehensively addressed. The attempts to discredit and close down News Diggers! have taken the form of letters addressed to regulatory authorities such as Zambia Revenue Authority, National Pension Scheme Authority and National Health Insurance Management Agency in the hope of establishing statutory and regulatory breaches on their part. We recognise these as attempts to curtail the freedom of the press and intimidate independent media houses.”

The Consortium stressed that the relevance of the work of independent media houses such as News Diggers! could not be overemphasised.

“In very recent times, we have witnessed the closure of the Post Newspaper and Prime TV under similar pretexts. We denounce these actions and their perpetrators in the strongest terms. A free press is a manifestation of the right to freedom of speech and the right to information. In any democracy, issues of public interest are brought to the knowledge of the public through accurate reporting without fear or bias. The relevance of the work of independent media houses such as News Diggers! cannot be overemphasised. We will, therefore, not be silent while fundamental tenets of our democracy are threatened by a small group of people driven by narrow selfish interests. We urge members of the public to equally speak out against these latest attempts to stifle the press freedoms in a fast-shrinking civic space,” urged the CSOs.