UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has bemoaned the fact that public funded media has been turned into a tool of oppression and conduit of hate speech.
In his statement to mark press freedom day which is observed globally today, HH paid tribute to journalists who work hard under difficulty conditions to promote transparency.
‘Journalists are the eyes and ears of society. As such they have a great responsibility and the capacity to build or break the nation,’ Hichilema said.
Hichilema called for extensive reforms in the media sector, ‘especially concerning public media, to enable our journalists to report with freedom and integrity and better do their job’.
He observed that ‘the public media, which is funded by taxpayers’ money, has sadly been turned into a tool of oppression and is now routinely used for repetition of hate speech and derogatory language that seeks to divide rather than unite the nation’.
He explained that one of the agreements reached during the political parties Indaba organised by the church was an undertaking that the public media should provide fair access to all stakeholders. But, he noted, people in government have continued to be abuse ZNBC and its network of radios, Times of Zambia, Daily and ZANIS.
He said the ‘the only time access is provided to the opposition is when we are being demeaned or portrayed as unpatriotic. They have also continued allowing others to attack us without giving us the chance to give our side of the story as per journalistic requirements’.
He said that this year being an election year, the role the media will play before, during, and after elections will be under the spotlight and will play an important role in determining the destiny of our great nation.
He said his party is aware of the many abuses against journalists in the country.
Hichilema advised his supporters to continue exercising maximum restraint and civility in ‘dealing with these professionals, even those from institutions whose positions we may not agree with’.