Journalists to protest against Kunda after festive period

The Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) says 2009 has been challenging because the current acrimony in the political arena has been played in the media more than anywhere else.

And the Media Regulation Lia-son Committee says journalists will protest against vice president George Kunda just after the festive season.

PAZA executive secretary Patson Phiri disclosed that the committee resolved that they will notify the police of the intended demonstrations on January 5.

Phiri said that the committee did not want to demonstrate during the festive period as the took in consideration the mood of the public.

PAZA president Andrew Sakala observed with regret that the year 2009 has seen no meaningful dialogue between government and the media and the result has been tension.

Sakala and Phiri were speaking at Mulngushi International conference centre Wednesday at the end-of-year media briefing.

Below is what Sakala said in full’

Press Association of Zambia end-of-year state of the media address

Mulungushi International Conference Centre, Lusaka-30th December 2009

Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners (or their representatives),

PAZA Board Members,

Leaders of media groups,

Members of the Press,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) has called this briefing to highlight the major developments that have occurred in the year 2009 and to pass advisory opinion on pertinent matters it feels can help improve media-government relations. We also want to explain the strategic focus of the organisation in the 2010 when the group will be celebrating its 45 years of its founding.

Review of 2009

The year under review has been a challenging one on the media front. It has been as challenging as the politics have been because the current acrimony in the political arena has been played in the media more than anywhere else. Those that have had a less than desired outcome have blamed the media for their misfortune while those that have made it pretty well have not dared to apportion part of their success on the media! Such is the nature of journalism that sometime it passed like a thankless job. But our call is much more than the narrow considerations of politicians.

Media violations: The post election tensions between and among different political actors led to some venting their anger on journalists through acts of violence which took authorities so long to address that a mass protest became necessary in August. Three journalists- two from The Post and one from Times of Zambia were brutalised by MMD cadres at the airport while Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) journalist Lackson Nthani was verbally abused and forced out of an opposition UPND meeting in Livingstone.

Several other violations particularly against independent media journalists were committed whilst party leaders looked on. We serve notice that this shall never be tolerated again as was shown by the mass anger at this development. We are conscious of the fact that 2010 and 2011 will be active political years but there is no excuse of violence against journalists or anyone with whom anyone may have divergent views.

PAZA-PFC cooperation: It has been three years since PAZA signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Press Freedom Committee of The Post newspapers to cooperate on a wide range of media development issue which among others include the defence of a free press, promotion of ethics, increasing readership among young people, and the promotion of open societies. We wish to announce to the nation that this cooperation has been a phenomenal development in the country’s media landscape. We are happy that this relationship has had a catalytic effect in the unity of purpose among media watch groups in the country. The PAZA-PFC MOU is popularly known as the Carnival Agreement because it was negotiated and signed at Carnival Resort in Lusaka on 12th August 2006.

Call for dialogue

PAZA has observed with regret that the year 2009 has seen no meaningful dialogue between government and the media and the result has been obvious—the tensions have ever been on the rise between these parties. Government has taken a combative approach to media issue often patronising and paying little or mere lip service to the many thorny issues that the media has raised over time.

We call for serious dialogue and mutual respect to media professionals in the coming years and beyond. PAZA on its part pledges to commit itself fully to help in conflict management and resolution as the case might be. The lack of dialogue has created a situation of entrenched mistrust between the media and government and some sections of the political fraternity.

Status of the IBA and ZNBC Acts of 2002

It is sad ladies and gentlemen that we have to sing songs about straight forward matters like these ones because it is clear case of bad governance that laws can be passed by Parliament and assented to by the President yet remain unimplemented for seven years. We demand yet again that these be implemented because they are instruments of good governance. Related to this is the inordinate delays in bring back the Freedom of Information Bill to Parliament fro enactment.

State of ZNBC

The state of affairs at the state broadcaster has been a source of concern as regards the status of the board of directors. Apart from it having outlived its mandate under the law, the current board exists outside the provisions of the ZNBC (Amendment) Act 2002 which has superseded the ZNBC Act of 1988.

We are, however, pleased to note that relative stability has been achieved under the leadership of the acting Director-General Mrs Julian Mwila. We demand that all formalities be completed as soon s possible to allow for a legally constituted board to superintend over the recruitment of the substantive head of the institution.

Given the absence of a legally constituted board and the fact that the board itself is deeply implicated in the mal-administration cited by the forensic audit by the Auditor-General, we demand that Government takes urgent measures to address the matters raised in the report.

Key partnerships

PAZA is pleased to announce that it has had a fruitful engagement with some of its partners and donors who have supported various programmes in the year 2009.

Recently we held capacity building workshop on media self-regulation with the help of the American Embassy in Lusaka.

We also have an on-going programme with Save the children Norway to help not just the presence of child-friendly news but also make children present in disseminating the news itself.

We have signed an agreement with the Governance Secretariat under the Ministry of Justice to produce and broadcast good governance programmes on nine radio stations between January and May 2010. We shall also train producers from the selected community radio stations on how to ensure effective communication of good governance matters.

In conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, PAZA conducted a media sensitisation training workshop on climate change and environmental reporting ahead of the Copenhagen Summit.

In partnership with other media groups, PAZA has been a beneficiary of the assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in efforts to bring about an all-embracing self-regulatory framework.

PAZA worked with the NGOCC to organise a confidence-building media cocktail and also worked with the NWLG in preparations for the launch of the 50/50 Campaign aimed at creating the equality of opportunity for men and women in political positions. We are currently negotiating with NGOCC on a possible partnership on a programme to effectively communicate HIV and AIDS issues. These partnerships underscore our commitment to the gender affirmative action policy we passed in 2005.

TV/radio licences and challenges of digital migration

PAZA is pleased that government has finally issued a national license to Muvi TV. We commend them for this effort although we are conscious of the fact that this is a matter that could have been best handled by the IBA. We commend Muvi TV for the innovation and perseverance and wish them well in their expansion programmes. This raises the question of the challenges of digital migration that many Zambian operators will face given the restrictive legal and policy regulations. We ask government to move with the times and allow professional organ to lead win this matter. Let the IBA and Communications Authority deal with the challenges of digital migration which might see some station off the air for lack of preparedness.

Key programmes in 2010

Press Clubs: PAZA is re-organising press clubs countrywide and establishing new ones in schools in the light of the partnership it has established with Save the Children Norway to broadcast child-friendly programme between now and March 3- the International Day of Children Broadcasting.

As a good governance institution, PAZA will help to create mechanisms of conflict resolution particularly in the coming period of heightened political activity arising from voter registration, constitutional review and the polls themselves later in 2011.

AGM and elections: The Press Association of Zambia will hold elections in the November 2010 to usher in new office bearers. The AGM and elections have been delayed due to a pull out of a strategic donor that was responsible foe this critical function. All paid up members- institutional and individuals are eligible to attend in line with the association’s constitution.

We are working on reorganising the press clubs which are part of the electoral college and raising money following from own resources to undertake this important function. Our assessment is that the organisation needs K100 million to hold its AGM and elections.

Obituaries

PAZA regrets the passing away of two senior members of the profession: Diana Zulu and Pelekelo Liswaniso both of the Zambia Daily Mail. It is tragic for PAZA to lose Diana who was a member of our gender committee of the board. We convey sincere condolences to the Zambian Daily Mail Management for the loss of the two editors.

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