Chief Government Spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili says government takes great exception to the conclusion drawn by International Press Institute (IPI) that the closure of The Post has been instigated by the PF government to forestall criticism during this election period.
In a statement to ZANIS in Lusaka Dr. Kambwili dismissed the conclusion as deeply flawed and recklessly injures the efforts of the PF administration in furthering democracy in Zambian.
Dr. Kambwili said the case of The Post is and has always been between the Zambia Revenue Authority and the paper itself.
He said the Post dragged the tax collector to court and subsequently lost at the highest level, the Supreme Court.
The Minister disclosed that overt and covert calls have been made on President Edgar Lungu to intervene so that The Post can continue to operate.
Dr. Kambwili said the President has refused to be drawn into the saga in line with government’s commitment of growing democracy by allowing institutions to exercise their legal mandates without interference from the executive arm of government.
He stressed that as PF, the party is determined to set in motion unstoppable wheels driving to an expanded democratic space contrary to previous regime efforts.
Dr. Kambwili said IPI like any other media advocacy institution will rarely pass a guilty verdict on a media house and will always seek to find an excuse no matter how farfetched it might appear to defend a paper, radio or television station.
The Chief government spokesperson pointed out that the IPI principle negates the fact that media houses are run by human beings capable of wrong like any other human being.
He said this principle has blinded some media rights bodies so intensely such that they can hardly see anything wrong in a journalist.
Dr. Kambwili said government refuses to be guided by such selective treatment of citizens and instead subject all and sundry to the same standard of right or wrong.
He further stated that to suggest that The Post has been closed for fear of its critical reporting is to think too highly of the paper because the PF administration cannot be intimidated by the so-called critical reporting of The Post because much of them were manufactured versions of the truth.
Dr. Kambwili who is also Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services (MIBS) cited the case where he alleged that the post in conjunction with the UPND manufactured a story that the electoral Commission was registering foreigners to bolster PF’s chances of winning.
He said an independent audit has proved that the reports are fake and the hapless sources that were used and abused to pose as foreigners are on the run.
Dr. Kambwili wondered why the IPI report questions President Lungu’s democratic credentials when it is under the PF Government that the 50-year struggle to give Zambia an Independent Broadcasting Authority has become a reality.
The minister added that the PF administration stands at the threshold of giving Zambia the long-awaited and hard-fought-for Access To Information (ATI) should Zambia vote “yes” in the August 11 referendum, which the opposition, heavily supported by The Post, is campaigning against.
He said President Lungu has on several occasions campaigned for a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum because he believes in deepening the country’s democratic roots and expanding its scope.
Dr. Kambwili said President Lungu has campaigned that holding the referendum separately may risk a lower turn out and result in failure to meet the technical threshold of high numbers.
He said the Head of State places a high premium on human rights and democracy to the extent that he does not want to leave anything to chance.
Dr. Kambwili said to describe such a man as undemocratic and afraid of a newspaper is downright dishonesty and a deliberate ploy to frustrate the commitment of the Zambian people to a fair and just society.