Media regulation coming – Siliya
By Staff Reporter
Information minister Dora Siliya says once the access to information bill is enacted by Parliament, a media council established by the government will not allow practice of bad journalism.
And Siliya says medical evacuations are not a preserve of the politically connected but even for ordinary Zambians, except it’s not news when the latter are evacuated.
During a weekly Wednesday media briefing in her office in Lusaka, Siliya disclosed that the government had made a lot of progress with regards enactment of the access to information bill.
“We only have one more consultation next week Tuesday before, hopefully, we can now go to Cabinet and then finally to Parliament to enact the access to information bill,” Siliya revealed.
She noted that the access to information bill was also calling for journalists to up their game.
She added that once the access to information bill was enacted into law, there would be “no bad journalism that will be accepted in the sense that the access to information bill will demand that there must be professionalism.”
“So, we are working very hard with media leaders to ensure that the media council gets into effect because it impacts the access to information bill. In the access to information bill, every government institution will have to have a contact person who is of either journalistically trained or PR trained,” Siliya said.
Meanwhile, Siliya reiterated that bad journalism was not equivalent to press freedom.
“Poor journalism is not press freedom! Uninformed journalism is not press freedom! Myself and the PS (Chanda Kasolo) are champions of good journalism because that’s what protects government, the media and the people of Zambia,” noted Siliya.
“A profession is not a profession unless it has basic standards of entry. It is very important to keep repeating this because some people believe that asking for professional standards is trying to clamp on the media. No! It’s trying to separate good journalists from quacks, those who are masquerading.”
And Siliya confirmed that the government evacuated many citizens, “not just those who are politically connected.”
The minister explained that if one got records from the Ministry of Health, they would confirm that there were quite a number of Zambians that had been evacuated for specialised.
“However, our thinking now is to try to invest as much as possible on health institutions so that we do not have to send people out for specialised treatment. Of course, in the past, there are situations when we have not been able to avoid it. But you’ve seen the landmark cases recorded where we had kidney transplant done here, a heart operation done here, Siamese twins separated. Before, all those would have to be evacuated,” Siliya said.
“It’s just that the ordinary citizens, when they are sent abroad for specialised treatment, it doesn’t make news. What makes news is that Honourable Mulongoti has been evacuated.”
Asked to give an update on People’s Party president Mike Mulongoti who was evacuated to South Africa for specialised treatment in January, Siliya answered that “I did see, when I was in South Africa, Honourable Brian Mushimba, just like I also visited Mr Mike Mulongoti.”
“But that was over a month ago when I was in South Africa and at that time, he (Mulongoti) was stable. [But] I’m not sure what the status is of now; I don’t know if he is still in South Africa or he has returned,” she explained.