PRESS ASSOCIATION OF ZAMBIA (PAZA) STATEMENT ON THE ARREST OF FRED M’MEMBE AND JOURNALIST MUKOSHA FUNGA
The arrest of Post Proprietor Fred M’membe and journalist Mukosha Funga again brings to the fore the urgent need to repeal or amend most of the draconian laws that still lie on our statute books.
At the moment there are more than 10 pieces of legislation that hinder m edia freedom and THE STATE SECURITY Act which has been used to charge Mr M’membe and Ms Funga is just one of them.
This law is vague and all encompassing to an extent that any government document can be classified as secret without clear standards or terms of classification.
For example, the nation will remember that not long ago, the draft constitution was classified as a secret document and government warned of prosecuting anyone who might have had the draft constitution at that time.
It is hard to imagine how a draft constitution can be classified as a top secret document but that is how absurd the secrecy law is . It can be used in a wide and sweeping form and citizens are generally in danger of prosecution for possessing any government document.
The manner in which this law can applied or is applied is a travesty of media freedom, free expression, access to information and transparency and accountability in management of public affairs.
The State security act is contradictory to the law protecting whistle blowers and therefore militates against the much talked about fight against corruption.
This law also suffocates investigative journalism and consequently the media’s role as a watchdog of society is watered down.
For as long as this law and other outdated pieces of law remain as they are currently crafted in the penal code, journalists and other citizens’ rights will continue to be violated by governments.
These laws have been used and will likely to be used in future to suppress a free press, freedom of expression and throttle investigative jounralism.
These laws are also a hinderance free flow of information which is vital for transparency and accountability in a democracy
PAZA therefore calls on government, members of parliament, the church, civil society and othet other stakehoklders to ensure that media law reforms should implemented with urgency.
In this regard, the minstry of information and broadcasting and the ministry of justice should lead in the process of media law reforms.
PAZA also calls OF LAW DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION which is resposible for continous revision and updating of laws to take keen interest in the revision or amendment of these laws.
The Patriotic Front (PF) government has an historic opportunity to strengthen and move Zambia’s democratic process forward by revising laws that are clearly anti-democracy.
PAZA hopes that the PF government will not miss this opportunity like the MMD administration did.
July 17, 2015.