THE Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia has called for dialogue between the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) and the various media organisations whose journalists were harassed and barred from covering the Africa Cup of Nations Group “C” qualifier between Zambia and Mozambique, and the Zambia and Algeria Olympic Games qualifier match at Nchanga Stadium in Chingola, on 5th and 18th June 2011 respectively.
MISA Zambia chairperson Daniel Sikazwe said his organization investigated reports of journalists being barred by FAZ and confirmed that journalists were harrased during the reported incidences despite the affected journalists applying for accreditation.
Sikazwe said MISA Zambia concluded after its investigations that FAZ has been granting accreditation as a privilege, favour or reward for good behaviour and not a right.
“MISA Zambia received a number of requests from concerned parties on the harassment of journalists by FAZ officials during the said football matches, as such, we instituted investigations. The affected journalists were contacted to get their side of the story. We also spoke to Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) Communications Manager, Eric Mwanza, who has been at the centre of the controversy,” said Sikazwe.
He said MISA Zambia was gravely concerned with the deterioration in the relationship between media organisations and FAZ over the last few months.
Sikazwe asked both FAZ and the media to embrace dialogue in order to amicably resolve their differences.
“There seems to be a regrettable tendency by some FAZ officials to verbally and physically abuse journalists, especially those perceived to be against the Kalusha Bwalya led executive. This situation is unhealthy for the development of soccer in Zambia,” he said.
On 5th December, 2009, former Post newspaper journalist, Augustine Mukoka, was reportedly physically assaulted in South Africa by FAZ president, Kalusha Bwalya, who complained about being stalked by the reporter.
In another incident, FAZ spokesperson, Eric Mwanza, reportedly stormed the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) newsroom on December 20, 2010 and allegedly verbally attacked the journalists, accusing them of making unfounded allegations about FAZ, following a story aired by and on ZNBC.
“MISA Zambia is concerned that within a space of two weeks this month, a total of five journalists from both the public and private media were harassed. We would like to advise FAZ that reporters have a duty to inform the public about the goings on in soccer administration, among other things. FAZ has no right to bar them from undertaking their duties without interference, including denial of accreditation to perceived “hostile” journalists and media houses,” he said. “While we appreciate that that journalists are supposed to follow the due process of accreditation, which according to our investigations, they often do, nevertheless, the problem we have observed is that there is selective accreditation of journalists by FAZ.”
Sikazwe said it has come to the attention of MISA Zambia that only those journalists that are seen to be “friends of FAZ” or “friendly to the Kalusha Bwalya administration” are given accreditation.
“We regard the selective accreditation of journalists as a cheap tactic by FAZ to force journalists to report favourably about the institution. This behaviour is contributing to the deepening of the wedge between FAZ and the journalists. We would like to advise FAZ to act in a professional manner when it comes to accreditation of journalists. Journalists should be spared from the internal wrangling in FAZ between the rival Kalusha Bwalya and Andrew Kamanga camps,” said Sikazwe. “We, therefore, request FAZ to urgently call for an “indaba” with the journalists and their media houses to identify the root cause of the deterioration in their relationship and to resolve any issues that could be leading to this soured relationship. There is need to restore the levels of trust between FAZ and the media to what they used to be in the glorious days of Zambian soccer.”