The government will next week meet with the Media Liaison Committee to discuss the way forward regarding the Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC) draft Bill.
The indaba will consist of the Media Liaison Committee (MLC), the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Information and Media.
In an interview, MLC Chairperson Enoch Ngoma says the meeting is meant to come up with a final draft bill.
Mr Ngoma said the meeting will be held from April 7th to 8th, 2022 in Chisamba.
Mr Ngoma said the bill contains certain aspects of the previous draft bill that have brought contention citing a provision suggesting that individual journalists should be penalized when found wanting and not the institutions they represent.
He said it is expected that in the aftermath of the indaba, a significant amount of progress would have been made.
“After that meeting the document shall go to (ministry of) justice since the drafters will be with us, they will know exactly how we shall move forward,” Mr Ngoma said.
Mr Ngoma however expressed disappointment that it seems unlikely that the draft bill will not be presented to Parliament in the current sitting.
MLC presented the draft bill to the Ministry of Information and Media last year who in turn sent it to the Ministry of Justice.
The Ministry of Justice however wrote to MLC suggesting some amendments to the initial document.
This led to MLC suggesting to the government to have a meeting where all stakeholders will be present in a quest to iron out the delays that have characterized the process.
The ZAMEC is a framework where the media will self-regulate hence the MLC being tasked with the responsibility to come up with the contents of the bill.
Meanwhile, The Zambia Union of Journalists (ZUJ) has opposed suggestions that media practitioners and not their institutions should be held liable if found wanting once the Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC) bill is enacted into law.
ZUJ President Sam Lukhanda said it would be harsh for journalists to be penalised in their individual capacity as they represent media houses.
In an interview with ZANIS, Mr. Lukhanda said once journalists submit a story to their news editors, it ceases to be the work of the individual.
He said individual journalists need to be protected at all costs.
Mr. Lukhanda said the provision in the draft bill needs to be revisited.
“Collecting information is a daunting task especially if it is sensitive information. The journalists cannot be held responsible for the information as an individual because when you collect information, it is for an institution. There are gatekeepers who have the final say before a story is published,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lukhanda is hopeful that the ZAMEC bill will be enacted into law sooner rather than later.
He said the matter has been outstanding for a long time hence the need to have it concluded.
Mr. Lukhanda said media practitioners have been eagerly anticipating the enactment but to no avail.
“I think we are all fatigued with the whole process. Year in year out instead of the bill taken to parliament, we hear all kinds of stories,” he said.
Next week, stakeholders will converge in Chisamba to iron out and agree on the contents of a final draft bill after some contentions arose following the suggestion by some stakeholders that individual media practitioners must be held liable when they flout the law and not their media houses, among other issues.
The composition of the meeting will include the Media Liaison Committee (MLC), Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Information and Media.
The ZAMEC bill was handed over to the new dawn administration last year but the Ministry of Justice, who are responsible for drafting the bill, wrote back to MLC to include certain provisions.
The MLC however suggested that an indaba be held where some outstanding issues will be resolved, a situation that has culminated in the setting up of a meeting in Chisamba from 6th to 7th April 2022.
The submission by journalists that their employers be responsible for their stories is unreasonable to some extent and it’s why I called for the circulation of the Draft Bill to members of the public for their comments. It’s likely that journalists can peddle lies and get away with it or put their employers in trouble. There have been so many unverified falsehoods that have been reported and you’d wonder how journalists gather that information. This Bill must not rushed otherwise other people’s interests might not be taken care of. A ought to be balanced, it shouldn’t save the narrow interests of media practitioners
Dont narrowmindedly view journalists as a target for government’s punitive measures. This bill is trying to make ethics a part of the law thus making authority to micro-manage freedom of speech. It is very bad for freedom of speech. Ethics should be left to professions not be handed over to the law.. What does the UNZA school of communication have to contribute?
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