Zambia: Journalists assaulted by supporters of former minister

Supporters and relatives of a former Zambian minister, who appeared in a Lusaka court on Thursday in connection with a large amount of cash which was found buried at his farm, assaulted four journalists covering the case and damaged their equipment.

Photojournalists Richard Mulonga of Times of Zambia, Mackon Wasamunu of Zambia Daily Mail, Joseph Mwenda of The Post and Muvi Television’s Mabvuto Phiri is managing editor were covering the ongoing trial of the ex-minister Austin Liato, when his supporters began verbally abusing the journalists.

As Liato was led to police cells after taking his plea in court, the photographers were beaten, and their equipment was confiscated and damaged.

Mulonga was brutally stabbed in his left hand during the attack and had to undergo treatment at Lusaka’s University Teaching Hospital, where he received an injection for tetanus.

A police officer who came to the rescue of the four reporters was also badly injured. Police have since arrested two people in connection with the incident, who are believed to be assisting with identifying the attackers.

Liato is facing charges of receiving stolen property after he allegedly received and kept 2.1 billion kwacha (US$412,000) in cash with the full knowledge that it was stolen.

The attack on the journalists went against the very tenets of democracy, which Zambia supposedly upheld, MISA Zambia chapter chairperson Daniel Sikazwe said.

Sikazwe said it was the duty of the media to inform the public on issues that affected everyone’s welfare and they should not be victimised for performing their duty.

Press Freedom Committee (PFC) Executive Secretary, Leah Kabamba said there was no justification for Liato’s supporters’ targeting of journalists, who had found themselves at the court grounds to execute their duty of informing the public.

“We condemned in strongest terms this attack on journalists. It barbaric and malicious,” Kabamba  said.

She added: “Journalists do not need anyone’s permission to inform the general public on matters of public interest.”