ZAMBIA Daily Mail managing director Isaac Chipampe was yesterday ordered to apologise to both the House and Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Garry Nkombo over two contemptuous articles the newspaper published in March this year.
Speaker Dr Patrick Matibini's order arose from a ruling he made on a complaint lodged by Nkombo against the newspaper relating to articles titled "Dressed chicken goes to parliament" and "Chickens importations" of 16 and 18 March 2012, respectively.
Nkombo, in a letter to the Speaker stated that section 3 and 4 of the statutes and CAP 12 of the Laws of Zambia availed him privileges and immunities and protection during his discharge of duties and roles in Parliament.
He said that during a sitting of Thursday 15th March 2012, he raised a point of order on agriculture minister Emmanuel Chenda over a response to a question earlier raised when the minister stated that there were no imported chickens in the country.
Nkombo said it was at that point when he demonstrated to the House that the minister was being untruthful after he produced a fresh South African dressed chicken and a corresponding receipt on the floor of the House.
He said he was however disturbed in the manner this was reported in the extracts of the paper in which they accused him of concealing a chicken in his jacket and stating that his conduct was dishonourable.
Nkombo said that they insinuated in one of the articles that he was a political vulture who would not waste time to feast on such a story so as to cause despondency.
In the articles, Zambia Daily Mail satirically implied Nkombo had imported the chicken himself by stuffing it in his jacket.
The paper described his behaviour as appalling and unparliamentarian for a well respected man to smuggle a chicken into Parliament by tucking it into his jacket, and later having the chicken for dinner.
Nkombo demanded that he and other members of parliament be protected from such attacks.
Speaker Matibini announced that the committee on privileges, absences and support services tasked to look at the matter came up with three optional punishments prescribed under section 7 of the powers and privileges Act.
Speaker Matibini told the House that the available sanctions were to either ban Zambia Daily Mail from covering Parliament or order them to apologise.
The Speaker decided to ask Chipampe to apologise and there was a division that was called after the 'Is' and 'Nos' shouted in equal strength. The Speaker ruled that the 'Nos' had it but some members of parliament called for a division. Later the House wanted to conduct a vote on the matter.
But UPND's Jack Mwiimba raised a procedural point of order in which he asked the Speaker if the members were for the first time in the history of Parliament going to overrule the ruling of a committee of the House, in reference to the committee charged to study the matter.
The Speaker again put the question on whether Chipampe should be called to the House to apologise and the House unanimously agreed.
Speaker Matibini directed the sergeant-at-arms to bring in Chipampe who apologised unreservedly.
Chipampe said he had taken note of the Speaker's advice to journalists and assured that in future the Zambia Daily Mail would try to report on proceedings in a more responsible manner.
Speaker Matibini advised that the privileges that the parliamentarians enjoyed during debates on the floor of the House under the practices and procedures provided for in the House were paramount, because without them, it would be impossible for them to perform their duties.
"From this legal provision, you must note that journalists are in the press gallery at my pleasure, therefore in order for you to continue enjoying this privilege, it is important that you appreciate the fore input of the laws relating to contempt of parliament," the Speaker warned.
The Speaker said reporters should avoid misguided reporting and wrong analysis before the House on the pretext of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the Constitution.
"This freedom is not absolute, it is subject to limitations and those limitations include the respect of the right and liberties of other citizens. This means the exercise of press freedom presses a responsibility on the media to take necessary measures to ensure it does not in its reporting exceed freedom… " said Speaker Matibini.
And rising on a point of order, Siavonga UPND member of parliament Kennedy Hamudulu wondered why government and the acting president Emmanuel Chenda was quiet on President Michael Sata's whereabouts.
"As I speak there are a number of burning issues in the country at the moment; fuel shortages, wage disputes, cotton price disputes and the list goes on. These issues need the President to give direction, but the President's whereabouts are not known," Hamudulu said.
But Speaker Matibini asked Hamudulu to use available channels in government to address his issue.
President Sata is scheduled to arrive this morning from London.
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