Zambians are greatly concerned about the state of Press Freedom in Zambia. According to the latest Press Freedom Index, Zambia has been declining in press freedom for 3 years now. This is especially worrying because MMD were the ones who liberated the press. From 3 newspapers, 1 TV station and 3 radio stations, we now have more than 80 radio stations, more than 10 TV channels and several print newspapers and magazines plus a multitude of Online publications like Tumfweko and Mwebantu New Media.
In this environment of a multitude of media houses, one would expect a robust and free press but alas this is not the case. Ever since they were elected, the PF has consistently harassed and worked against the independent media. Their first president Michael Chilufya Sata ruled for 3 years without a press briefing. His successor Edgar Chagwa Lungu went for 8 months without an interview or briefing.
The recent moves by the PF government to try to shut down The Post Newspapers using Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) are shameful and an affront to democracy. They may deny it but all their explanations do not make sense. Why don’t they also shut down Times of Zambia and Daily Mail who also have unpaid tax obligations? Why send armed Police to The Post over an administrative issue that was in court?
Zambians do not accept this victimization of the press which has also included The Daily Nation, various radio stations and Online media. Journalists like Thomas Zgambo, Clayson Hamasaka, Wilson Pondamali and Chanda Chimba III have been arrested, locked up and dragged to court on trumped up charges and harassed by the PF. In the case of Mr Hamasaka, incriminating pornographic pictures were planted on his laptop by state operatives but fortunately, the case was thrown out in court.
How can Zambia develop if there is no free exchange of ideas or criticism? Without criticism, a ruling party becomes arrogant and despotic the way UNIP was for two decades. They fail to make better quality decisions and become warped and self-absorbed. Is this the Zambia we want? Having experienced 18 years of the oppressive UNIP one party state, Zambians are saying “No!”
On behalf of the New Hope MMD, I pledge that we shall be the most tolerant government in Zambian history towards the press. We shall never harass any media house and shall allow all media outlets to report freely as they see fit. Any media house that reports falsely or defames anyone shall be dealt with by the courts of law by those aggrieved. We already have laws on libel and slander that are adequate. I shall go a step further and get the law on Defamation of the President abolished as it has been used to victimize critical voices in the media.
When I become president, I shall ensure that critical media websites like the Zambian Watchdog and Zambia Reports are never blocked in Zambia. It makes no sense to block any website, no matter how critical they are. For example, Zambia Reports never write anything positive about me and always try to twist everything to make me look bad, but it would be very small-minded of me to block them in Zambia.
I want Lloyd Himaambo back in Zambia so that we can build Zambia together through sharing ideas. There is no sense in the founder of the Zambian Watchdog living in exile because of selfish politicians who come and go. Any journalist who ran away due to persecution shall be invited to return home. Any fake court cases against journalists shall be dropped. We only have one Zambia.
I will not allow the state media to become a vuvuzela of the ruling party the way ZNBC, Times of Zambia and Daily Mail are. We shall leave them free to report on anything they want, including incompetence in government. I do not want to be headline news everyday and I will not allow my ministers or any other government officials to be calling ZNBC to threaten them over what they report, unlike the way PF leaders keep doing. I shall be a president for all journalists.
An independent and totally free press is a necessary prerequisite for a nation to fully develop because it allows free dissemination of information and free exchange of ideas which in turn enable better quality decisions to be made in the governance of the nation. If Zambians are aggrieved with their government and want to be heard, why should we stop them? Why shouldn’t we allow our mistakes as a government to be exposed and talked about so that we improve?
In conclusion, I wish to state that as president of Zambia, I shall be very accessible to the media and will not be afraid to answer tough questions or deal with difficult situations that the press highlight. I shall continue in the rich tradition started by my late elder brother and second President of Zambia Dr Frederick JT Chiluba who taught Zambians what freedom really means.
Zambia shall be saved.
Dr Nevers Sekwila Mumba
ZWD comment: point on Dr Mumba. But the founder of ZWD is eee, eee? Snowden Banda.