Hakainde Hichilema, then-presidential candidate for the United Party for National Development speaks at a rally on January 18, 2015. In December 2021, 20 UPND supporters raided the Mpika FM offices and interrupted their broadcast. (Rogan Ward/Reuters)

Ruling party supporters raid Zambia’s Mpika FM Radio, halt show featuring opposition

At around 8 p.m. on December 1, 2021, approximately 20 people who identified themselves as supporters of Zambia’s ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) forcibly entered Mpika FM, a community radio station in the northeastern town of Mpika, and ordered the presenter on air, Peter Nkandu, to immediately stop broadcasting a weekly phone-in-program, “The Hot Spot,” according to the journalist and Mpika FM station manager Allan Dumingu, who both spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and local media reports. Nkandu said he complied and halted the broadcast, but the program returned to the air at its scheduled time the following week.

The UPND supporters forced their way in by pushing the broadcaster’s security guard, Peter Maluku, out of the way, and threatened to attack Nkandu and damage property at the radio station if the journalist did not stop the program, which featured a discussion with an opposition member of parliament from Mpika, Robert Kapyanga, according to Dumingu, Nkandu, and a statement by the radio station, which was shared on its Facebook page.

After the program was halted, the UPND supporters remained in the station for about 30 minutes before leaving, Dumingu told CPJ. Nkandu told CPJ that he was terrified, but there was no damage to property, and no one was hurt.

The radio station management reported the attack to Mpika Police Station on December 2, 2021, where statements were recorded from Dumingu, Nkandu, and Maluku, Dumingu told CPJ.

On December 3, 2021, police summoned Nkandu and the security guard to identify ruling party supporters who had been arrested over the attack, but police released the supporters after the UPND made a public apology, which was broadcast on the station, and Mpika FM dropped the case, Dumingu told CPJ.

“They gave a public apology and vowed never to repeat the action. The party promised to punish the perpetrators. As we speak, the case is closed. We accepted the apology on condition that such does not happen again. If it does, we will not hesitate to take legal action and we shall not accept another apology,” Dumingu said.

Zambian Information Minister Chushi Kasanda condemned the raid in a statement, which CPJ reviewed and was published by local media. Reached by phone on December 22, 2021, the commanding officer for the police in Mpika, who identified himself only as Chabe, said Muchinga Province Police Commissioner Byemba Musole may have more details. When CPJ contacted Musole by phone, he said he did not have details of the case and promised to call back but did not.