LUAPULA Province UPND chairman Besa Chimbaka says the persecution of private media not only affects the freedom of information but also hinders national development.
Chimbaka said in an interview that well-meaning Zambians should not support President Edgar Lungu and the PF government’s barbaric treatment of Post editor Dr Fred M’membe and his family.
He said witch-hunting was a bad element in a democratic society like Zambia and that only when this was stopped would the country see development.
“Our democracy is at stake; what we have seen under President Lungu’s administration is total oppression of not only the opposition but also the media. What is happening to M’membe and his family must be condemned in the strongest terms. President Lungu’s harassment of media houses – The Post, The Mast and Dr M’membe in particular – are acts of a coward fleeing from his own shadow after realising that he is terribly exposed even by his once trusted members of PF and Electoral Commission of Zambia. He knows Zambians now have known all of his misdeeds and that they have totally lost trust and confidence in him and his government,” Chimbaka, who once served as Luapula Province minister in the PF government, said.
“These are the kicks of a dying horse. Let Lungu remember Idi Amin, Mobutu Sese Seko and other dictators; what were their deaths like?”
He said there would be no development without a free media.
Chimbaka said tampering with media freedom would mean killing the voices that provided checks and balances.
“If there is a person who needs independent media more than any other in this country, it is President Edgar Lungu because without it, Zambians would have risen against him by now. Lungu’s administration has been pathetic but with the regular checks and balances provided by the civil society and the opposition, he is forced to do right things at times. Having said that, the Head of State should leave M’membe and his family alone,” Chimbaka said.
He, however, urged civil society organisations to rise to the occasion and denounce the government’s war against Dr M’membe.
“Fred M’membe is not a criminal. If he was, he would have been arrested by now. Civil society must not be silent because this is the right time to speak. What the PF government is doing to Fred and his family is unacceptable and should be condemned. I have followed this matter very well and it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that government has declared war against M’membe and his family, but we will not sit back and watch our fellow citizen being treated like a criminal in his own motherland,” said Chimbaka.