- May 19, 2020
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Written by HRC Secretariat
The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) strongly condemns the continued violation of media freedom and freedom of expression in Muchinga Province by suspected Patriotic Front (PF) party supporters.
The storming of Isoka Radio Station, Muchinga Radio Station and the cancellation of a paid up Programme on Mpika Radio Station to stop live Radio Broadcasting Programmes featuring United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Mr. Hakainde Hichilema via a telephone interview are a systematic violation of human rights and criminal in nature and must not be allowed to continue.
The Commission, therefore, calls on the Government to immediately take practical steps to stop the violations, criminal and undemocratic conduct to restore the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression in Muchinga Province and indeed the whole country.
The Government must decisively deal with such acts of lawlessness and human rights violations because they have potential to contribute to widespread political violence and thereby endangering the lives of Journalists and other citizens, particularly during the countdown to the 2021 Presidential and General Elections.
Media Freedom and Freedom of Expression are fundamental human rights and critical to good governance and national development. The Government has the primary responsibility to ensure that those who violate human rights are arrested and punished in accordance with the existing laws while victims must be protected from continued abuse or violations.
Regrettably, the Commission has noted that even after the Government through the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, Hon. Dora Siliya, MP, who is also the Chief Government Spokesperson, condemned the interference of programming on Mpika and Muchinga Radio Stations, the attacks on Radio Stations by suspected PF supporters have continued unabated.
It would seem that the perpetrators ignored the Government guidance through Honourable Siliya and instead heeded to the call to block Mr. Hichilema from speaking on any Radio Station in Muchinga Province, which was made through a Press Statement attributed to the ruling party’s Muchinga Province Chairperson, Mr. Alex Simuwelu, on the same day the Minister held a Press Statement.
Thus, there is general view that the cancellation of the Radio Programme on Mpika Radio Station on 13th May 2020, the attack of Muchinga Radio Station on 15th May 2020 and Radio Isoka on 18th May 2020 appear to be backed by the ruling party leadership going by the Statement attributed to the PF Provincial Chairperson.
The Commission is deeply concerned at the failure to arrest the identified cadres who stormed Muchinga Radio Station amidst a live programme, as well as taking action against the Mpika District Commissioner, Mr. Moses Katebe, who cancelled the Radio Programme and Mr. Simuwelu whose statement bordered on discrimination, inciting hatred, violence and breach of peace.
The Government is urged to effectively meet its obligation of ensuring that both State and Non-State actors refrain from engaging in such acts of gross human rights violations. Unless the perpetrators are brought to book, the Government will be seen to be failing in its duty to protect and promote human rights and instead allowing the violations to continue with impunity.
It is therefore the Commission’s expectation that the Government will take practical action against the perpetrators of the said human rights violations as a matter of good governance, respect for human rights, constitutionalism and the rule of law.
There is also need for a clear assurance by the Government to protect the right of everyone, including Mr. Hichilema’s, to democratically participate in public affairs of this nation, anywhere in this country, on an equal footing with the ruling party, without any form of discrimination, intimidation and harassment.
Mudford Z. Mwandenga
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION