On December 31, 2022, and January 1, 2023, supporters of Zambia’s ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) raided two radio stations and disrupted broadcasts by Chilufya Tayali, president of the opposition Economic and Equity Party, according to news reports and journalists who spoke to CPJ.
On December 31, a group of about 10 people who identified themselves as UPND supporters raided the privately owned Kokoliko FM radio station in the city of Chingola, while it aired a sponsored program by Tayali, according to a statement by the Zambian chapter of the regional press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), a Facebook post by station director Charles Mubonda, and radio station staffers who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
UPND supporters shoved station manager Eunice Phiri and used abusive language against the other journalists there, according to the staff and the MISA statement.
After the station complied with their demands and ended the interview, the UPND supporters ordered Tayali to leave the studio and get into his car, and then they got into their own vehicles and escorted him out of Chingola, according to the MISA statement and a video shared on Tayali’s personal Facebook page.
Police later warned two of those UPND supporters about their disruption of the radio program, according to news reports, which said Mubonda planned to file charges against the supporters for trespassing, harming his business, and making threats.
On January 1, a group of about 25 UPND supporters, led by acting youth UPND chairperson Kennedy Sikazwe, surrounded the privately owned Mafken FM radio station in the neighboring town of Mufulira and made their way into the studios, where they threatened to burn down the station if they broadcast a sponsored radio program featuring Tayali, according to a video posted on the station’s Facebook page and station manager Nchimunya Chilwalo and presenter Barnabas Chisha, both of whom spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
“It was Mr. Sikazwe who made the threats about burning down the radio station,” Chilwalo told CPJ. “He even boasted to say, ‘Even if you inform the police, nothing will happen because those are our people.’”
As UPND supporters surrounded the radio station to block Tayali, Sikazwe and others remained inside until they all left the premises about four hours later, Chilwalo added.
When CPJ called Sikazwe for comment on January 9, he promised to return CPJ’s call, but did not do so and did not answer follow-up calls.
“When I asked in what capacity they were stopping us from running the program, they said in their capacity as UPND youths, and that they have the right to stop the program,” Chisha said.
On January 2, UPND National Youth Chairman Gilbert Liswaniso apologized to the radio stations during a media briefing and told his cadres to stop harassing journalists.
CPJ repeatedly called and texted Liswaniso for comment but did not receive any replies.