A media organization on Wednesday called on political parties in Zambia to restrain their members from venting their anger and frustrations on journalists ahead of the presidential election next January as the journalists were only doing their work of informing the public.
Journalists have been targets of attacks and beatings by members of various political parties, especially the governing Patriotic Front (PF) as campaigns heat up ahead of a presidential election on Jan. 20. Members of the governing party are accusing journalists from some local media of writing 'bad things' against the party's candidate Edgar Lungu.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia Chapter said political parties should stop beating journalists and refrain from acts of censorship because an independent media was key to free and fair elections.
"In order for citizens to make an informed decision, they need information and therefore, elections are highly dependent on the free flow of information, something which the media in Zambia is trying so hard to provide," said Hellen Mwale, president of the association, in a statement.
"However, the current onslaught by some political parties on media workers and institutions is very worrying," she said.
The media body has so far recorded six reports of harassment and media rights violations during the campaigns. They include attacks on two photojournalists, two attacks on a television crew from a private station and the storming of offices of the state broadcaster by some politicians who threatened the journalists.
The media body has also expressed concern that a government minister has banned the airing of news on a community radio station in northern Zambia and threatened to dismiss all the staff for allegedly biased coverage.
"Further, we wish to appeal to all the political parties who have been involved in this vice to address the outbreak of violence against the media and acts of censorship because the media are simply being beaten for reporting the truth and providing information to the electorate," she added.
Zambia is scheduled to hold a presidential election on Jan. 20 necessitated by the death of President Michael Sata on Oct. 28.