Government barred private media both local and international from covering President Michael Sata as he officially opened the Fourth Session of the Eleventh National Assembly.Drama characterized the opening parliament as Journalists from various private media houses were barred from covering the President from the Press Gallery as per normal practice but instead they were bundled in the Press Room about 300 metres from the Chambers forcing them to watch the event on TV instead an act that has never happened in Zambia’s 50 years history.
Only eight journalists from State owned media houses had been accredited by the Zambia News and Information Service (ZANIS) to be in the Press gallery and the chamber.
The media houses allowed were Daily Mail, Times of Zambia, Post Newspaper, ZNBC and ZANIS.Some named reporters complained that it was unfair for the Clerk of the National Assembly Doris Mwinga to deny them access to the Chambers considering that public Media Houses were allowed in side.
They complained that it was frustrating to work in such an environment in this day and age like the country was still under colonial rule.
The Journalists have since demanded for an explanation as to why they had to be subjected to watching the event contrary to the usual practice of all Journalists, regardless of the media house, covering the event from inside the chambers.
Some suspected that the President was not enjoying good health and private media institutions could categorically write about it if they saw him in close range.
“We know why these people are treating us like this; its because of the health of the president but why should they deny as access to chambers what is that going to do? Make him fine?
“Its a shame that institutions which are suppose to be in the forefront in promoting access to information as well as a more open society are the ones stifling it.
“Its shocking indeed that the private media have been denied entry inside the house. This is the first time I have seen things happen in this manner and I have been covering parliament for the past 20 years. Are we in the colonial era?
Meanwhile the frail looking president labored walking the entire length of stairs to the national assembly building.His voice devoid of its usual strength, the president failed to read the entire speech but instead left with the clerk of the national assembly. The speech was delivered in approximately 30minutes.
MISA Zambia has noted with sadness the sudden and retrogressive decision by the Government to block out some media houses from covering the opening of Parliament today.
MISA Zambia chairperson Hellen Mwale said the decision to bar journalists from private media houses was not only an insult but also amounts to undressing the so called democracy before a global audience.
Ms Mwale said MISA was appealing to whoever was behind the shameful act to rescind their decision.
“Above all our main appeal is to President Sata himself to issue a directive to counter this archaic, barbaric and shameful act. We want to put it to the attention of the Clerk of the National Assembly and her collaborators that Parliament is not a private institution but a public institution which is composed of elected and not appointed people’s representatives,” she said.