PF wants media regulation before enacting information bill – Zulu

By Staff Reporter

Eastern Province minister Makebi Zulu says government wants the media regulated before enacting the Access to Information law.

And Socialist Party spokesperson Fr Richard Luonde says it is shameful that the Patriotic Front government has continued to introduce laws that are restrictive to the media freedoms.

During World Press Freedom day commemorations under the theme, Keeping Power in Check: Justice and the Rule of Law in Chipata on Thursday, Zulu complained that irresponsible journalism had potential to destroy societies.

“It is sad that journalists are failing to regulate themselves across the country….The PF government is working on the Access to Information bill but it is important to talk about self-regulation before talking about the Information bill,” said Zulu.

And Fr Luonde said there was need for the nation to reflect on its commitments to press freedom and that of expression.

“It is, however, of great concern to the Socialist Party to note that the Patriotic Front government, through the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Dora Siliya, has announced the administration’s advanced efforts to gag the media by introducing enhanced defamation laws and regulation of the cyber space,” he said.

On Tuesday, while launching the World Press Freedom Day commemorations in Lusaka, Ms Siliya announced that she was working with her peers in the Ministry of Justice as well as the Ministry of Transport and Communications to enhance defamation laws as well as provide for cyber laws.

Fr. Luonde said with the foregoing and public pronouncements, the Socialist Party was not convinced that the PF government would improve the media environment in the country.

“….these defamation and cyber laws will negatively affect the already suffocated media environment in terms of regulation and restrictive tax regime. It is just mere rhetoric since there has been a protracted cry from the media sector that derogatory laws that impede on the enjoyment of press freedom by citizens, like criminal defamation, should be removed from the statute books,” he said.

Fr Luonde said it was ironical for the Lungu administration to purport to promote press freedom while it maintained repressive laws and even strengthen such laws.

“The Socialist Party, guided by Karl Marx’s ideological belief that a society without press freedom cannot realise its full emancipation, is committed through action to guaranteeing a free, progressive and ethical press,” he said.

Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index showed that Zambia has dropped from 114 to 113 in terms of press freedom levels, on account of an increase in political tension and threatened media freedoms following President Edgar Lungu’s re-election in 2016.

Reporters Without Borders observe that this building political tension has been used by the government as a pretext to drastically restrict the freedom to information and gag the independent press, as seen in the June 2016 closure “of the most important independent newspaper, The Post”. The report goes on to highlight that several radio and TV stations had their licences withdrawn in August 2016.

And Chipata Press Club president Osward Yambani, said journalists were faced with various challenges including poor remuneration.