Government says it has dismantled the chains that stifled media freedom and restored the dignity and nobility of the media profession as it promised the Zambian people prior to the
September 20, 2011 tripartite elections.
Information, Broadcasting and Labour Minister, Fackson Shamenda, said the public media are no longer a preserve of the party in power.
Mr Shamenda stressed that the media are free to set their own agenda without any interference from government in any way.
Speaking when he addressed the media fraternity during the commemoration of the 2012 World Press Freedom Day in Lusaka today, the minister said government has totally decontrolled and deregulated the media so that they can carry out their work professionally.
Mr Shamenda said the Patriotic Front government desires to see a media that consistently challenges it to do better by pointing out both its strengths and weaknesses.
He said government was there to work and not to be showered with exaggerated praises from the media even where it least deserves.
“All of us in government, including myself as minister of information and my permanent secretary, only wait to read and watch the news in the media like everybody else. We have no prior knowledge or access to what the media are going to publish like the case was under the
previous administration”, he said.
The global theme for this year’s Press Freedom Day celebrations is “New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies”, while the local theme is “Access to Information, a Pre-requisite to a
And the minister said government was delivering on press freedom and professionalism, saying for the first time in the history of the media in the country, press freedom has been explicitly recognized and enshrined in the first draft constitution the Technical Constitution Committee has just released for public comment and scrutiny.
He said it was for this reason that government is surprised that the media in the country seem to be waiting for the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOIB) to exercise the freedom which they already have.
He said for government, the enactment of the FOIB is a mere formalization of the freedom which it has already delivered and guaranteed.
Mr Shamenda further expressed government’s disappointment that despite its overwhelming support and goodwill, the media are dragging their feet in actualizing the Zambia Media Ethics Council (ZAMEC), which he said is an important mechanism to regulate and promote professionalism
among media practitioners.
“We are not sure where the challenge still lies for the media to launch the ZAMEC which we have given our full blessings unlike our predecessors”, he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Shamenda noted that the media in the country worked under heavy political patronage, control and harassment at the hands of those that were in power in the past two decades.
He said before the September 20 general elections, heads of the public media queued up every day before the Information Permanent Secretary to have their news items approved for publication.
Mr Shamenda said the Permanent Secretary was the de-factoEditor-In-Chief for the Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail and the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, saying no stories were passed without his approval.
“At a great disservice to the public, political, rather than professional consideration became the sole determinant for news coverage in the newsrooms of the public media where news started and
ended with praises for those in power”, he said.
The minister reminisced that reporters threw out their ethical and professional values and went on an orgy of character assassination of innocent citizens such as the highly libellous and infamous Chanda Chimba television documentaries in order to appease and advantage
those in power.
He said malicious propaganda has never and will never work as would be seen from what happened in the September 20 elections where the MMD lamentably lost the election.
Speaking earlier, World Press Freedom Day 2012 Organising Committee Chairperson Anthony Mulowa thanked Government for guaranteeing press freedom in the draft constitution and hoped that it will ultimately be enshrined in the final document.
Mr Mulowa challenged media practitioners to take advantage of government’s goodwill to rise to the occasion and ensure that their reports are investigative and objective. He said the public media should be able to meet the aspirations of the Zambian people by giving divergent views not only for the party in Government but all other political players.
Mr Mulowa stressed that the media should strive at all cost resist to fall in the trap it succumbed to during the last general elections where unprecedented levels of unprofessionalism were exhibited by media personnel.
He remained confident that such a scenario would not happen in the future as the PF government is putting in place a number of safeguards to allow the public media operate independently.
Delivering a vote of thanks, Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) president Andrew Sakala said journalists should now not be afraid to carry out their work professionally and without fear or favour for fear of being punished as was the case in the previous regime.
Mr Sakala said if any journalist will be punished for doing their work professionally, the media fraternity would hold government accountable for its promises to the media. ZNBC Camera-person Rose Hamakalu was awarded the UNESCO 2012 outstanding and brave journalist of the year Media Award during the commemoration.
Written by ZANIS