THE Zambia Union of Journalists (ZUJ) is advising journalists against colluding with government officials to leak state documents.
In a statement ZUJ secretary general Angela Chishimba said the union is concerned that the Access to Information Bill might not be tabled before parliament because Government feels some media institutions lack responsible reporting.
“First, ZUJ agrees with Government concerns over too many leakages from Government institutions and wonders whether there is collusion between some government officers and some journalists, and if so, what is the motive of these journalists and Government officials,” she asked.
Ms Chsihimba said, “As ZUJ we feel the cure of leakages would in fact be the passing of the ATI which would allow free flow of information, barring that which borders on national security.”
Although, agreeing with Government concerns about continued leakages, ZUJ however feels the laws as they stand on media are inimical to press freedom as journalists may be arrested for leaking documents of any kind as long as they are marked “Secret”.
ZUJ, therefore, advises journalists to desist from colluding with Government officials to leak documents because they risk being arrested and exposing the country to security threats.
Much as we promote investigative journalism, journalists should know that they risk being sent to jail if they are caught.
It should also be noted that the advantages of the ATI being passed is not just to the advantage of journalists but of all Zambians and the country as a whole, therefore, this should not be torpedoed by a few journalists.
Therefore, let us be responsible by not allowing government to withdraw its intentions of taking the bill to parliament because of our actions as journalists.
Meanwhile, Media Institute if Southern Africa (MISA) as expressed its disappointment with the sentiments uttered by the republican President Edgar Lungu displaying reluctance to enact the Access to Information (ATI) bill.
MISA chairperson Hellen Mwale in a statement said; “We wish to remind the President that the ATI law is not for journalists but for the citizens of this country that elected him into office. It is worth noting that progressive governments world over are moving towards open governance systems that encourage transparency and citizen participation in decision making.
The statement by the President is a sign that the government doesn’t have respect for people because it shows that the PF had no intention of enacting the ATI bill into law.
This statement by the President is a sign that the PF administration does not understand ATI and we conclude that the PF right from the start had no intentions of enacting the law. The ATI bill if enacted has some provisions of how to deal with state secret matters and instead of pushing for quick enactment the President has instead negated any efforts made so far.
President Lungu in particular must bear the blame, we dissociate the media from the blame.
It is the ordinary citizens of this country that stand to benefit as they will be able to make informed decisions based on substantial information relating to their communities and society at large.
In the recent week unveiling the World Press Freedom day which fell on 3 rd May, 2015 we have been closely monitoring government pronouncements on media freedoms and particularly the ATI law.
While we do not agree with the media being irresponsible, we put the blame on the government for subjecting the country and media to a hide and seek game, where the government hides some information and sets the media to seek that which is hidden – this is the current scenario.
It is further saddening that government has continued on a path of complacency after four years in office having stalled the enactment of the ATI bill on five consecutive occasions since 2011.
There has been no concrete will from government to have this very important aspect of democracy enshrined in the law and this has been confirmed by President Lungu’s statement on ATI.
MISA Zambia therefore reiterates its call for government to immediately give a clear roadmap (and timeframe) for the enactment of the ATI bill as promised three years ago in its campaign manifesto on which it was elected into power.
We would also like to appeal to the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Justice, the ttorney-
General’s Office and Cabinet to expedite the process of the enactment of the ATI bill.
We wish to remind President Lungu that Zambia needs the ATI law before the general elections in 2016 as this will help citizens make informed decisions.