Assault On Independent Media Site in Zambia Ends In Humiliation For Junior Minister
BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, January 13 2014
After beginning a highly personal war on the independent, anonymous news site Zambian Watchdog, Zambia's Junior Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Miles Sampa suffered numerous blows to his image, and finally backed down from the assault, tail tucked firmly between his legs. It is a prominent victory for the feisty Watchdog, which has endured assaults from the Zambian authorities before.
The conflict appears to have started with a Zambian Watchdog article claiming that Sampa, President Michael Sata's nephew, had traveled to Kasama, the capital of the Northern Province, with cash meant for “unknown purposes,” which the Watchdog either suggested or argued was for bribery. Sampa countered these reports with threats to sue the Watchdog for slander and an offer of a US$2,000 reward to anyone with information on the identity of the Zambian Watchdog editors. In response, the Zambian Watchdog published articles about Sampa's alleged extramarital affairs and offered an iPad or Kindle to anyone with additional information about Sampa's “scandalous lifestyle.”
A mere 72 hours after Sampa announced his personal vendetta, he publicly backed down, although too late to salvage his image, according to Zambia Reports, which reported that his “character and morality [was] torn apart leaving his image as a public leader in severe tatters.”
The call to arms on Sampa's Facebook page veered into the absurd at times:
...Those who enjoy defaming other people be it politicians, should be brave enough to validate their stories in court.
That person you know doing the vice on their keypad, maybe defaming person X today, but tomorrow they will defame you (with a pseudo name) given that they already know your real name.
As Bob Marley said ” They can fool some people sometimes; but they cannot fool all the people all the time”.
As George Bush said “…its time to smoke them out”.
I have no problem with libel or slander that has some element of truth in them; but I have a big problem with Deliberate Libel ( where even the Writer knows that they are telling Lies). [sic]
After the Zambian Watchdog published information alleging extramarital affairs with teenagers and university graduates (graduates Sampa eventually helped find jobs), however, Sampa thought better of his threats.
His statement explaining his call to arms also seems a little off. First he points out that his decision is not a sign of weakness. He then explains his stance:
My attempt to reprimand the cyber attacks was not just about me, but everyone else who was, is and can potentially be hurt by such acts in future if not addressed. However, I realize I am not and will not be in control of what people do or write. With that said, I ask all those affected by this and other such acts to stay strong, keep our heads up, forge ahead and leave it to the public to judge.
(Wait—wasn't that exactly what was happening on the Zambian Watchdog? Letting the public judge?)
He then tries to distance himself from the problem, and talks about his allegiance to his constituency and development issues they have brought to his attention.
The Zambian Watchdog responded with a brutal tallying of other women they have linked with Sampa:
BREATH MILES SAMPA, WE HAVE STOPPED
Miles Sampa, deputy minister of Commerce, We know your wife left you today in disgust and that your various concubines are on your throat.
So we shall give you space to breathe. Just in case you think we do not have more; we were still going to talk about Annette Silito in the photo (aged 18 ), Bertha Tembo Sondoyi and your son Bwalya. Yes Bertha, the one whose engagement you tore apart.
And your teenage daughter in USA. But we have stopped for now. Blame yourself for whatever has happened. When we hinted that you are womaniser you should have realised that we knew what we were talking about. You have no right to threaten us. We are not Kachepa whom you managed to intimidate. [sic]
Kachepa was a gossip website that Sampa successfully sued for defamation in the United States last year, a victory that might have given the Junior Minister the confidence to go after the Zambian Watchdog.
The Zambian Watchdog articles about Sampa's girlfriends, and about his taking money for unknown purposes to the Northern Province, are no longer online. The most recent story about Sampa on Zambian Watchdog is from November 2013, although links to stories from earlier this month can be found in Google searches.
Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.