POLICE in Lusaka have written to Prime Television to release footage in which Fresher Siwale allegedly defamed President Edgar Lungu. But Prime Television managing director Gerald Shawa says the station will not release any footage to the police until they produce a court order.
New Labour Party president Siwale was last month granted K10,000 bail after he pleaded not guilty of defaming President Lungu. Siwale, 57, of Chelstone, is alleged to have on April 22, in Lusaka, with intent to bring the name of the President into ridicule, published defamatory matter by word of mouth to which he said “The President of the Republic of Zambia is not the actual Edgar Chagwa Lungu but Jonathan Mutawale, he must be arrested for having three National Registration Cards, he is an identity thief”.
In an interview yesterday, Siwale said it was unfortunate that government was still following him around.
“They are following me; writing letters everywhere. Yesterday (Thursday) they wrote a letter to Prime TV asking for footage for my speech. It’s harassment [after being released from prison] because I cannot be arrested twice for the same offence. I cannot defame him (President Edgar Lungu) any further that is if he has a character that I can defame. A person who steals from the dead cannot have a character that can be defamed,” Siwale said.
But when contacted for a comment, Shawa wondered why Prime TV had been picked to release Siwale’s footage.
“As a station, we will not give them that footage because first and foremost we were not the only media house that was covering that story when that man ‘came out’. I told them that ‘why should they come to us alone when there are so many media houses that were covering that story?’ That story has been in public domain for a long time so if they want that footage, they can easily access it… I told them that I can even help them download it because it’s in public domain. I told them that we will not give them that footage. If they want let them bring a court order, that’s when I will give them,” Shawa said.
“Or, they can use the same authority that they use, the IBA…they use the IBA all the time…I mean, they are not even independent those guys. If they want they can use them but as a station, we will not give them the footage. We need to protect our sources. It is unethical…we need to protect them. If we want, even if there is a court order, we can apply for an interparty hearing the way we did last time. It is unethical to give footage of our sources…we need to protect them. We won’t give them because we know where this is leading to. They want us to be a witness and we do not want to be reduced to that level. We don’t want to involve ourselves in that.”
Meanwhile, Siwale narrated that while in police custody, he collapsed because police officers were not allowing people to visit and give him food.
“These are characters…when they took me from Chelstone Police, they told me they were taking me to force headquarters and it was actually after 17:00 hours. When I saw that we ended up near Woodlands…Woodlands stadium, towards Chalala…then I knew we were going to Lilayi. When we reached Lilayi, they had a private meeting and then I could see that they were pointing at a particular cell that they were going to hold me in…that had been prepared. They asked me to go to my holding cell,” Siwale narrated.
He said when he tried to carry his bedding to the holding cell, police officers refused and told him that they needed to get permission from ‘above’ if he could be allowed to use his bedding.
“I asked them to get permission but they told me to go into the holding cell. Surprisingly, the whole cell was empty…they had evacuated everybody from there and I had to remain alone. I found they had put a mattress and a blanket and they forced me to use them but I refused because I had my own bedding. When they refused to allow me to use my things, I said it was fine. Next, they brought me two bottles of water, unsolicited, and I just laughed saying this is foolishness of the highest order,” Siwale explained.
“So, I slept on the cold floor…I avoided their bedding and prior to that I had been denied food for 48 hours, even when I was taken to Lilayi because they could not allow anyone to come to where I was. Obviously, by morning, my sugar levels went down and I started feeling dizzy. I collapsed and they took me to Lilayi clinic and the nurses there gave me 50 per cent glucose intravenous fluid and it got up but they insisted that they take me to Maina Soko but I told them not to because I knew what the problem was the sugar levels had gone down. But they insisted and drove me to Maina Soko and we found everybody ready to receive me…I wish all hospitals in Zambia were this efficient.”
He said he told them that he was not a military personnel to go to a military hospital and that he refused to be treated by a doctor from Maina Soko because he was not his doctor.
“I went to his office when he insisted but I told him that ethics do not allow him to treat me against my will. I told him that I did not go there to be treated in hospitals but that I was there because I had been accused of committing a crime. I told them that I wasn’t supposed to be at the hospital but at the police station so that things could be concluded. His phone was ringing and he was getting instructions but I stood my ground and we went to force headquarters to finish the process of arrest and I spent a night at Chelstone Police,” Siwale said.
“But surprisingly, they were trying to paint a picture as though I had failed to raise sureties when I was denied bail. There were many directors in government who were ready to sign but they interfered with people to sign the letters of introduction to court. That is how I did not meet bail conditions.”