The opposition United Liberal Party (ULP) has encouraged President Edgar Lungu not to allow irresponsible media take away the greater good of enacting into law the Access to Information Bill.
ULP president Sakwiba Sikota says much as he sympathizes with President Lungu’s national security concerns, he thinks that the Access to Information Bill should still be made law.
Mr. Sikota has urged President Lungu to focus on the greater good that Sakwibathis Bill if enacted into law will bring to the general population of the country.
In an interview with Qfm News via telephone, Mr. Sikota has suggested that this legislation should on the other hand have provisions which will protect state security matters.
He has recalled that in 2003 when he was Livingstone Member of Parliament he did take to Parliament a Private Member’ s motion of a similar nature which had provisions that made exceptions with regards to state security matters.
The ULP president says this therefore should be the focus that the Access to Information Bill be enacted, but with certain safeguards against people being able to access information that is of a security nature.
He says in this way the country would have a win-win situation which is the more reason he has asked President Lungu to look at it this way.
And the Media Liaison Committee (MCL) says it has received with shock and disappointment the statement by President Edgar Lungu that his Government is reluctant to enact the Access to Information Law owing to alleged unprofessionalism by media practitioners.
MCL Spokesperson Patson Phiri in a statement says the statement by the President does not resonate with democratic discourses that are spreading the world-over.
Mr Phiri points out that within Africa, countries like Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda and Liberia have vibrant ATI Laws and 95 per cent of the users are non-media practitioners.
He explains that the Access to Information Law is not meant for media practitioners, but for the people of Zambia to use to settle anxieties for missing information necessary for their economic, social and related desires.
Mr Phiri says journalists would not find ATI any useful because of the long processes involved in accessing such information.
He states that in countries where some form of Freedom of Information legislation has been implemented, governance has been smooth and alleged unprofessionalism has not affected flow of information from government to the citizens.
Mr Phiri says President Lungu should understand that the people of Zambia need his government to be accountable through the virtues of transparency which will give them confidence on many matters.
He adds that the Act is more useful to government to generate increased confidence to the people being governed than to the media practitioners.
Mr Phiri has assured Zambians the daft Act which was drafted about 12 years ago, is very user-friendly and provides for a long list of information which cannot be requested for under the Act.
He says the fears sounded by the President are therefore unfounded and dangerous towards the move to reach finality on the ATI law.
He adds that while the MLC is not justifying the presence of unprofessionalism in the media, it must not be used to shield progress towards the enactment of a law which benefits government more than it benefits the media and the Zambian people.
Mr Phiri has since appealed to the President to amend his impression about the Act by looking at examples of the existing ATI Acts where they have been in existence for him to be rewarded with the right information on the subject.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia Chapter is taken aback by President Edgar Lungu’s statement that he is thinking twice about enacting Access to Information Bill because of the conduct by some media practitioners.
MISA Zambia Chapter Chairperson Hellen Mwale has told QFM News by telephone that President Lungu should tell the nation what has made him turn his back on journalists over the ATI Bill.
Ms Mwale says President Lungu is a lawyer and he understands how urgent the media in Zambia needs the Access to Information Bill enacted.
Ms Mwale states that President Lungu should sit down and reflect on his statement saying he is not being fair with the media in the country.
She says a few days ago Chief Government Spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili during the Press Freedom Day celebrations made it very clear that the ATI Bill is before the Attorney General and President Lungu is now doubting about enacting it.
Ms Mwale has since challenged the Head of State to tell the nation what he is scared of in enacting the Access to Information Bill.
Meanwhile, Governance Activist Maurice Malambo says President Lungu’s statement is a challenge on the media in the country to prove that they can handle media freedom.
Mr. Malambo has told QFM News in a walk-in-interview that there is no doubt that some media organizations more especially print and online have abused media ethics saying what more can they do if the Access to Information Bill is enacted.
Mr. Malambo has since advised media bodies to help journalists understand the media ethics so that they report on matters affecting the people effectively.