THE Media Liaison Committee (MLC) says it is shocked by attempts from the National Pensions Scheme Authority (NAPSA) to abuse their authority by intimidating News Diggers! from investigating corruption.

In a statement, MLC chairperson Ngoma stated that government wings like NAPSA should not collude with Honeybee Pharmacy Limited to stop media institutions from reporting corruption.

“The MLC is shocked by attempts from management at NAPSA to abuse their authority and privileged positions by intimidating the media from investigating corruption and wrongdoings at their offices and those of Honey Bee Pharmacy. The MLC would like to urge the NAPSA board and relevant wings of government not to allow NAPSA and Honeybee Pharmacy to collude and turn Zambia into a ‘Banana Republic’ where all those fighting corruption and wrongdoing are silenced by anti-press freedom elements using State resources and institutions,” Ngoma urged.

“The media in Zambia has a constitutional mandate to speak truth to those that hold public offices and to hold them accountable. Further, the media have got the mandate to keep the public informed about how public resources are used or abused in the purchase of public goods and services, including health services. This mandate is very clear to all media practitioners and institutions in Zambia and all over the world; no wonder we are called the Fourth Estate. It is part of our training and forms our basis of existence as the media – we owe it to the public.”

Ngoma insisted that News Diggers! did not commit any offence by exposing the corrupt purchase of medical drugs and kits by Honeybee Pharmacy.

“On that score, News Diggers! did not commit any offence by exposing the corrupt purchase of medical drugs and kit by Honeybee Pharmacy. The newspaper should, therefore, never be intimidated or made to coil in a corner by State institutions such as the Zambia Revenue Authority or NAPSA because it is investigating corrupt practices committed by their friends. Our memories are still fresh on how The Post newspaper was closed due to machinations started by the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA). We also remember the closure of Prime TV early last year, through abuse of authority by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) board. It is now a well-known fact that politicians and their cohorts have turned statutory bodies like NAPSA and ZRA into daggers drawn and charged at every business or, indeed, individuals that stand for public good in Zambia,” he stated.

“It is extremely absurd that such State institutions that are supposed to be catalysts of development and private sector growth, are seemingly turned into conduits of political vendetta. We note with pity and disappointment that all such drawbacks in the media have been recorded under a single regime whose establishment can be largely attributed to the same media it has turned into an enemy and in a hurry to clamp down. As a consortium of media associations and organisations, the MLC urges News Diggers! and other media institutions to continue doing their work freely. They should investigate all public institutions and public officers without any fear or favour. The MLC is also urging the Anti-Corruption Commission, Drug Enforcement Commission and other investigative wings of government to get interested in this continued abuse of authority and citizens’ data by State institutions, such as NAPSA, which are mandated to receive and keep such information.”

Ngoma bemoaned that Diggers! was being harassed against the provisions of the protection of Whistle Blowers Act.

“Further, News Diggers! as a whistle blower is being harassed against the provisions of the Protection of WhistleBlowers Act. This is irrelevant and it must be stopped immediately. Zambia will only be a better place if public funds are respected, all corrupt activities are investigated and culprits brought to book; and the operations of the media as a Fourth Estate are left undisturbed. The MLC is urging the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) to reign in their member Tutwa Ngulube and stop his attempts of State capture by using his status as a Politically-Exposed Person (PEP) of the ruling Patriotic Front party. His directive to NAPSA to have News Diggers! investigated is nothing but an attempt at shutting the newspaper down. Simply put, Mr Tutwa Ngulube is abusing his political authority and we ask him to stop forthwith. The way he claims to defend his legal profession is the same way we are going to defend our journalism profession, except that unlike him, we shall continue to be professional rather than political,” stated Ngoma.

“The MLC is calling upon the media fraternity, civil society, well-meaning religious organs and the public to unite against these evil forces seeking to cripple the Fourth Estate. They should not be allowed to use stolen resources to silence voices of reason. It’s time Zambians stood up to defend a free press and further demand prudent use of taxpayers’ money in their own land. To all those against independent voices, the MLC is asking you to get your dirty hands off the media! Zambia is a democracy where everyone’s voice should be respected.”