On Monday, we stepped on President Edgar Lungu’s toes. No, actually we didn’t, but Chishimba Kambwili did. In his usual political pontifications, he called the Head of State a stranded drunkard who was begging Turkey for financial help.
The rebel PF member of parliament also called President Lungu a thief and warned Zambians that if they won’t go out to vote during general elections, they will continue to suffer at the hands of a drunkard.
We quoted Mr Kambwili accordingly and reported his story on the front page of our Tuesday edition with the headline “Kambwili mocks Lungu’s plea to Turkey; THE DRUNKARD IS STUCK”. We did not publish everything that Mr Kambwili said, we had to take out what we felt was inappropriate to the story, but without curtailing his freedom of speech. But apparently, that was not good enough.
After this story was published, we turned to the Chief Government spokesperson Dora Siliya, to get a reaction as we felt that was one sure way of letting the public hear the response from the accused leadership. Unfortunately, our attempt attracted a very angry call from the Minister who accused us of using foul language on the Head of State. Strangely, she was not angry with the source of the foul language. She had absolutely nothing to say about Mr Kambwili, but rather, she was angry with News Diggers!
We told the Minister that as she was rebuking us, Kambwili was taking evidence of President Lungu’s alleged criminality to the Drug Enforcement Commission, and challenged her to deal with Kambwili instead. But the Minister insisted on targeting News Diggers! the weaker opponent whose life she could terminate at any time.
“Media houses that tolerate insulting language in the name of press freedom risk having their licenses cancelled by government. And those of you that wish to dare government will be made a good example of very soon,” she threatened.
Just because our newspaper gives Mr Kambwili a platform to speak, Siliya and her PF government want to kill the messenger and ignore the message. This kind of intimidation only goes to prove that indeed, we are living under a brutal dictatorship. What press freedom has News Diggers! violated to deserve this threat from the government?
Honourable Siliya and her employers are making one mistake, repeatedly. They assume that such threats can succeed to silence the critical media; they think all journalists are in the profession to make friendships with politicians, get brown envelops and churn out praise songs from the newsroom.
We are different. We are not in this job to get popular, or rich. Neither are we here to advance any political agenda. That is why our newspaper is run by volunteers; very well educated volunteers who are providing free journalism services for nothing in return.
Shutting us down is a waste of time because we started our organization knowing very well that we would be operating under the most intolerant regime. So, you can close the newspaper, but you will never succeed to shut down our brains.
So, here is our advice to Honourable Siliya and her pay masters. If you want media houses that sing praises for you like Mount Sinai Church Choir, the only solution you have is to kill. And when you choose to kill, you will have to kill not only the editors of News Diggers! but all the journalists in Zambia who are passionate about a free press. You will have to kill everyone at Muvi TV, at Prime TV, Radio Mano, Byta FM and Itezhi-tezhi Radio, among other truly independent media houses.
Otherwise, if you kill only Joseph Mwenda and Mukosha Funga; Stuart Lisulo, Mirriam Chabala, Abraham Kalito, Zondiwe Mbewe and Tenson Mkhala will start another News Diggers! and avail the platform to citizens who have no access to Daily Mail and ZNBC.
And if we may ask; how many Daily Nations does the PF want to have? Are they not satisfied with private media houses that give them favourable coverage?
Even in church, which is the birthplace for praise and worship songs, not everyone is expected to sing in one tune. How would the music sound if everyone sang in soprano? There has to be others who sing alto, and we have elected to sing bass. So, let our friends continue with their soprano news, and we will provide the bass!
It must also be made clear that we have no beef with the Patriotic Front; we give the PF leadership all the coverage that it deserves. If we had access to the President, we would be calling him every day for news, but at least in his absence, we are still able to call the PF secretary general, his deputy, the media directors and of course, the State House spokesperson.
And on this one, we must say that we prefer the approach that Mr Amos Chanda has towards Honourable Kambwili. His President seems afraid of Kambwili and now we can see that the Minister of Information is just as scared of entering into a debate ring with him. But Mr Chanda has demonstrated no fear for Honourable Kambwili. To him, Mr Kambwili is nothing but a cheap thief, and he has gone further to tell the people of Zambia exactly what the former minister allegedly stole. He gave us that information and we reported exactly as he said it. Was that an insult? If so, Kambwili didn’t take issue with us, he confronted the originator of the insult.
Indeed, if Kambwili is a thief and someone has proof of that theft, they have a right to call him a thief and be ready to prove it in court. Therefore, if President Lungu is not a thief but someone calls him as such, the best is to sue the accuser so that he proves such a claim. Similarly, if the Head of State is not a drunkard, but bitter as Kambwili claims that he is, he must be arrested for defamation of the President.
But we can see what is going on here. News Diggers! is being put on the altar as a sacrificial lamb. The truth behind the scenes is that the powerful in government are scared of Kambwili. They don’t want to confront him directly because they can’t handle his retaliation.
So, we are not shocked that the Minister was targeting News Diggers!; accusing us of courting and quoting bad language, while ignoring her real problem. And by the way, Honourable Siliya should be the last politician to complain about bad language, especially to us who recorded her 2011 campaign against the founder of the Patriotic Front, Michael Sata. We will end there.
Now, as far as we are concerned, we have not insulted anyone in this opinion, but when our Great Leaders of this great PF government wake up tomorrow, they will swap letters around and put “F” words in our mouths. Shame!