Delegates amend the constitution to make public media more accountable

The ongoing national constitution convention has amended clause 4 (a) of article 38 of the first draft constitution to turn state-owned media into public media after delegates said were more accountable to the public than the state.

The amendment comes amidst debates that the use of the word ‘state’ has a connotation of government control of the media and that state media is subject to abuse by those in authority.

Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) representative at the convention Antonio Mwanza and many other delegates supported the amendments saying the public media will be free from state interference.

They observed that state-owned media will be subject to serving the authorities in government as opposed to the public.

Another delegate Pamela Chisanga said Zambians were subjected to paying KR3 television (TV) levy to the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) which is a state-owned media.

Ms. Chisanga said the levy would only be meaningful if the institution was turned into a public media so that the public can decide its content.

However, Bishop Kamanga contended that the country needs state-owned media for easy dissemination of information by the state.

Bishop Kamanga, who expressed interest of serving in government in future, suggested that the state should be allowed to own its media that will specifically help in propagating messages to the public.

But Bishop Kamanga’s arguments were shuttered after the house unanimously resolved to amend the clause by replacing state-owned media with public media.

After amendment, the clause will provide that all public media shall be free to determine independently the editorial content of their broadcasts or communication.

The convention has also amended clause 4 (c) to replace the word ‘opportunity’ with coverage so that the clause could read as; “all public media shall afford fair coverage for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions”.

And clause one of article 38 that guarantees the freedom and independence of electronic, print and other forms of media has been retained as stated in the first draft constitution.

Meanwhile, the convention has amended clause (a) of article 44 on the acquisition and protection of property to exclude land from properties that non Zambians should own.

Article 44 clause (a) and (b) states that a person has the right either individually or in association with others to acquire and own property of any description and in any part of Zambia, which delegates thought would allow foreigners to own land, a property which only Zambians should own.

Clause (a) of article 44 has been amended to insert the words, ‘Subject to article 298,’ an article that provides the ownership and alienation of land.

Before it was resolved, the clause raised debate to an extent where the Heritage Party president Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda asked the chairperson of the convention to apologize to him for allowing people to debate on the same matter he had earlier raised more than two times while he was restricted to speak for the third time to make his point clear.

Gen. Miyanda refused to sit down when he was told by the chairperson to do so and when he was further told that he could be expelled, he dared the chairperson, an answer which attracted noise in the house.

He further accused the chairperson of misguiding the convention by allegedly siding with certain delegates.

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