Zambia Rainbow Coalition Press Releaseon the reversal by government on Freedom of Information Bill.
It is with heavy hearts that the Zambians witness yet another reversal and non-fulfillment of promise by the current government of president Michael .C.Sata. We are saddened to note that the promises made by the government are slowly proving to have been nothing but empty sounds meant to tickle the fancy of trusting Zambians who whole heartedly voted in the historic 2011 election. We believe the statement by the president that it was immature to enact the Freedom of information Bill is an affront to Zambia’s democratic dispensation.
Must we remind the government that in November 2011 in two separate occasions the thenMinister of information, Broadcasting and Tourism Minister Given Lubinda said that Government in collaboration with other stakeholders will manage to put in place a Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill within next six months. Mr Lubinda said Government and the media houses in Zambia were working together on establishing media legislation especially the FOI regarding the operations of the media in the country. This was when he was speaking to students from Sweden and later he said the same thing when he was speaking during a conference on freedom of information, which was organized by World Bank Zambia.
Buy on 21 March, 2012 the president announced that” it is immature for government to introduce and enact the Freedom of Information Bill (FoIB) because more people in rural areas are not sensitized on the matter” this as ZRC we find ironic because as long as the people in rural areas have no access to information how does one expect them to be sensitized? An obligation through the freedom of information Act will enhance or accelerate sensitization through access to information. This even calls for more worries on the forthcoming constitutional referendum, is the president saying that there will be no referendum, as people in the rural areas are not sensitized on the matter?
As ZRC we believe that this is the right time for Zambia to enact the bill because information helps members of the public to hold those in power accountable because transparency and access to information are at the very heart of both democracy and development. As it is said “Often those with information don’t like to share it because it is power, and if it is given to average citizens, it will give them power to hold those in power to account,” is the Government afraid of being held accountable? If it were the case then the fight against corruption that has been preached can be labelled as a scam. Without anyone holding government accountable corruption will not be fought in a holistic and comprehensive manner.
We therefore appeal to H.E Mr Micheal C. Sata and the PF government to reconsider the position to not talk about the FOI bill. If the issue is that rural people don’t understand this then as the bill is being enacted, let the media institutions and all stakeholders be allowed to start sensitizing the rural communities. As a matter of fact we can start by using the government driven ZNBC, Times of Zambia and Daily Mail. What is the essence of having public media if they can not take on the responsibility of sensitizing the Zambians on pertinent issues such as Freedom of information which will create an enabling environment for transparency, accountability and general democracy to flourish as once enacted into law the FOI bill will not only benefit those in the media fraternity, but all Zambians as it will give them an opportunity to access information.
ZAMBIA RAINBOW COALITION
Cleophas J.N Phiri