At her press conference yesterday where she announced government’s action against the University of Zambia students who rioted last week, Higher Education Minister Prof Nkandu Luo accused News Diggers of trying hard to tarnish her hard earned professorial credentials.
The background to Prof Luo’s anger this time around was that she was misquoted as having announced the introduction of witchcraft courses at the University of Zambia under UNESCO’s intangible culture programme.
Indeed, there has been a social media buzz about the University of Zambia introducing a witchcraft course, with a scandalous caricature of raggedly dressed Prof Luo conferring with some photo-shopped wizards. The rumour has gone so viral in Zambia that a majority of citizens have been made to believe that they can now go and enrol at UNZA if they wish to learn how to bewitch their enemies, especially creditors.
The truth however, is that the information is false because there is no such progarmme at UNZA. But, Prof Luo used the occasion to lambast, not social media users, but News Diggers! What was strange about Prof Luo’s attacks on our newspaper was that News Diggers! has not published any story about witchcraft anywhere. Not even the highly publicised story about a Ndola girl who allegedly arose from the dead after two years, as reported by government newspapers.
In fact, News Diggers! did not publish the UNESCO story in the first place, or whatever cultural programmes that the international organisation would like to introduce at the University of Zambia. So listening to Prof Luo brand us as losers in a race that we did not participate was mindboggling.
For whatever reason, this fake news story about witchcraft and the University of Zambia invoked bitter memories in her about a story published by News Diggers! four months ago to the effect that the Constitutional Court had nullified her Munali parliamentary seat.
News Diggers! wrote a dedicated and unreserved apology for the story which only lasted 15 minutes on its Facebook page, and the minister publicly accepted our apology at a press briefing. But yesterday, the minister spent a considerable amount of precious government time talking about News Diggers! ruining her reputation.
“I hope that News Diggers will report this well and not misquote me. You need to take up lessons in science and technology as journalist so that you can understand some of the things we talk about. You need to be able to do proper investigative journalism, not where you report that she came with a ministerial car and left in a private vehicle and you do not even investigate why she left with a private vehicle. I have cars, plenty of them and I have friends who have so many cars, so I can use my cars or my friend’s cars whenever I want. So, News Diggers! report the correct thing. You know what, I spend a lot of years building my name and I will not allow News Diggers to tarnish it. Do you know what it takes to become a professor like me?” asked Prof Luo.
“And you small boys think you can just say anything. No! So report the correct message. And at least for News Diggers they apologized but you Hot FM you quoted the University of Zambia wrongly that they want to establish a school of witchcraft and you have never apologized.”
We would have been left with heavy hearts hearing the minister tear us apart for no apparent reason. But it was the last part of her ‘attack’ on us that turned our sadness into joy. We figured that Professor Luo was simply trying to express her fondness for her favourite newspaper. The message we got from the Higher Education Minister is that she takes time off her busy schedule to peruse through our publication.
Prof Luo knew the name of media organization that aired a false story, but deliberately chose to condemn News Diggers! for a past mistake, and commend it for apologizing. That, to us, was a statement from the minister that she means well for our organization and we owe her a thank you.
News Diggers! doesn’t publish lies. We have said it before that our media organisation is made up of very young enthusiastic journalists with no political agenda or malicious intentions against any government official, private individual or business house. Our only agenda is to truthfully and objectively report news to the people of Zambia, nothing more and nothing less.
So we can’t imagine any grievance that we can harbour against the learned professor to the extent that we would make it our goal to tarnish her reputation. We have nothing but respect for Professor Luo, not only because of the position she holds in government, but also because she is a senior citizen of this country.
In fact, we know that old people sometimes use very confusing statements to communicate their feelings, and if you don’t read between the lines, you may deduce hate from a love message.
We are convinced that Prof Luo would like to see good journalism practice from News Diggers! She would like us to be truthful and fair in our reporting and stay away from fake news and hate speech. Only a fool can consider that as bad advice, we are grateful to the minister for her encouragement.
In fact, as a sign of goodwill and appreciation, we have resolved as a newspaper to start delivering a free copy of News Diggers! to her office starting immediately so that she can effortlessly follow the kind of news that we publish and monitor our growth. And considering that we are in the digital age, we have subscribed her WhatsApp number to our e-Paper version, just in case she travels out of the country.
We love you too Prof Luo.