United Party for National Development (UPND) has said that they are calling for a live TV debate between presidential candidates so that citizens are given the opportunity to evaluate the contenders and their policies in a transparent and open format, where they must stand on their own merit and cannot hide behind colleagues or offices of state.
According to the statement released to the media, UPND said that Debates are now internationally well recognised forums of determining a candidate’s capability to understand and implement vision. A leader who cannot articulate the issues and his or her plan for the country cannot be expected to deliver them.
The statement further read that during the campaign period the PF has unashamedly and repeatedly used its position to put pressure on media not to cover the opposition, whether this is through cancellation of scheduled interviews, censorship of adverts, or violent threats made against journalists.
The uneven and biased nature of coverage has been highlighted by various independent organisations. Just last week MISA calculated the large gap between PF and UPND coverage in volume and tone, for example on ZNBC TV1 the PF gets well over half of the coverage compared to 12% for the UPND. To add insult to injury the majority of UPND coverage is negative in tone. Last week the International Press Institute (IPI) and the African Media Initiative (AMI) also expressed serious concern about growing political interference in the media.
The statement ended by saying that a live TV debate would present an opportunity for Zambians to make up their own minds about who they want to see in control at State House. We therefore call on President Edgar Lungu to step up to the plate and commit to a debate in the best interests of the country.