We share the concerns of our brothers and sisters who have spoken out following comments by President Lungu that he may not enact the Access to Information Bill into law. The law is already long overdue and the threat to delay it, indefinitely, is the latest example of betrayal of the Zambian people by the PF Government.
The Access to Information Law was another one of the PF’s election promises in 2011 that 4 years later they are still delaying on. Its introduction is widely recognised as being important for both citizens and media representatives so that they can have access to vital information. Government’s unwillingness to empower Zambians with this freedom is disappointing and demonstrates once again their first thought is self-interest, rather than serving the Zambian people, as should be the case.
President Lungu’s reference of the media mishandling sensitive information is absurd to say the least. The revelation that his Government borrowed US$192 million to buy military equipment shouldn’t be a basis for acting in this manner. There is no security risk as he puts it. As a matter of fact whatever involves public money must never be a secret. It’s unfortunate that President Lungu, a lawyer, thinks that way.
This is perhaps unsurprising from a Government that has still not held a press conference after more than 100 days in office. State House must improve its communications further. It is only right that the President should update the country regularly on the progress being made to deliver on election promises rather than trying to keep people in the dark.
No doubt President Lungu is concerned about exposing himself to questions and criticism for the other areas in which PF election promises have been quickly thrown aside once they have won. In the UPND we have still not given up our fight for the new constitution as it contains vital provisions to protect the human rights of Zambians and to limit the power of the presidency. Now 1238 days overdue, hope that it will be delivered by the PF is fading however.
Unfortunately at the same time as Government is pushing the new people driven constitution to one side and toying with the Access to Information Bill, concerns continue to reach us of pressure being exerted on several media houses by Government officials and even Ministers. In addition, in the opposition we are almost daily reminded of the need for urgent reform of the Public Order Act, as police officers are sent to disrupt our peaceful meetings with community members.
We are ready to stand alongside other civil society, media and our fellow opposition to push for delivery of the Access to Information Law, and in protest against the continued delay to the new constitution and abuse of the Public Order Act.
We must unite together to protect our democracy and the fundamental rights of each and every Zambian.
Issued by: UPND National Campaign Centre, Lusaka