MISA Zambia Chapter says it has received with concern the threats by Chief government Spokesperson Chishemba Kambwili that government will start regulating the media in the country.
MISA Chairperson Hellen Mwale says the remarks are saddening especially that there is already a hostile environment evidenced by the increase in political violence against journalists.
Ms Mwale said if the threats of media regulation came to pass it would simply mean a de facto censorship of the media by a government that purports to be a democracy.
Below is a statement issued by MISA.
Thursday, April 7th, 2016.
MISA issues international alert over Zambian government threat of media regulation
Lusaka, April 6th, 2016-The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia Chapter has received with concern the remarks by the Chief Government Spokesperson threatening state regulation of the media in Zambia.
The remarks are saddening as there is an already hostile operating environment for the media in Zambia evidenced by the increase in political violence against journalists, legal and other persecution as well as several laws inimical to the freedom of the press.
It is not the first time that the minister has issued this threat of statutory regulation and it is therefore worrying that the threats have continued as this amounts to a call for de facto censorship of the media by a government that purports to be democratic while aiming to silence certain sectors of society that are deemed to carry critical views.
We condemn the threats by the chief government spokesperson and we call on the President to clear the government’s position on media freedom in Zambia especially that the PF government campaigned on a platform of further liberalising the media industry in Zambia.
Minister Kambwili also stated that some media houses are receiving payments from politicians in order to provide favourable coverage for them. We challenge the Minister to immediately furnish the nation with a list of the said media houses and evidence of the amounts of money received if his statement is in really in good faith.
It is also worth noting that the Patriotic Front which is in government today heavily benefited from media coverage in 2011 by specific media houses and not once were there any accusations of the coverage being done in a dubious manner.
The Chief Government Spokesperson should know that the role of the media is not only to offer coverage to the PF or the sitting government but to all the sectors of society whether in support of government or not and this includes other political parties.
It is only in this way that the citizens will be enabled to make informed decisions.
We wish to strongly warn the minister to refrain from further threats against the media as we will not hesitate to use whatever means are at our disposal including legal redress against the minister’s actions and threats.
MISA has since issued an international alert to all cooperating partners, human and media rights organisations as well as multilateral organisations because the continued threats against the media are also an affront to democracy. State regulation of the media is unacceptable in a democratic dispensation and this is why the said threats are very worrying.
May we also state that a self-regulatory mechanism exists through the Zambia Media Ethics Council (ZAMEC) which media houses, organisations and trade unions have been tirelessly working on to ensure its operationalization.
We wish to call on all media houses and journalists to stand as a united force against this continued threat of state regulation of the media by the PF government which promised to provide an environment for media to flourish.
MISA Zambia Chapter