MISA concerned with PF govt failure to guarantee freedom for state-owned media

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia says it is concerned with the fragile freedom that the State owned media is enjoying because it is not adequately protected by required legislation.

The government owned media in Zambia are Times of Zambia, Daily Mail, Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), and Zambia News and Information Service (ZANIS), the only news agency in the country.

MISA Zambia boss Daniel Sikazwe says MISA Zambia is also concerned with the continued silence by government over the Access to Information (ATI) Bill or what was previously called Freedom of Information (FOI).

In a statement, Sikazwe said ‘while government says that the Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) has been transformed into an institution that many people are proud of, MISA Zambia wishes to reiterate the need to reinstate the Appointments Committee to appoint board members for ZNBC. This will transform ZNBC into a truly independent broadcaster and regulate the power of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting over ZNBC.’

Sikazwe said this is in light of the 2010 ZNBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority Amendment Acts that lack a critical component;  the Appointments Committee.

He explained that the current situation where an ineffective law regulating ZNBC and the lack of an independent broadcast regulator, which is supposed to be the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), is a source of concern which MISA hoped the government will look seriously into.

He said the IBA Act will ensure ZNBC plays its public service broadcaster role.

‘MISA Zambia is further concerned with the continued silence by government over the Access to Information (ATI) Bill or what was previously called Freedom of Information (FOI). This Bill was scheduled to be launched on 21 June 2012 and was moved to 26 June 2012,’ said Sikazwe.

He said MISA’s concerns follow a promise by the PF government that it intends to enact the ATI Law by September this year and would be tabled in the current session of Parliament.

‘To our surprise, there is no information flow on this issue and we are still wondering as to when this Bill will be launched and tabled before Parliament.

‘This is of grave concern to us because freedom of expression by itself is irrelevant and can only be meaningful with sufficient access to information,’ He said.

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