Civil society organisations pledge full support for the advocacy by media bodies against statutory regulation
The two civil society organisations are Transparency International Zambia, (TIZ) and the Foundation for Democratic Process, (FODEP).
Speaking at a press briefing called by six media bodies, TIZ Executive Director, Goodwell Lungu, stated that his organisation stood in solidarity with media bodies on the fight against statutory regulation because there was no way a country could move forward democratically without freedom of the press.
Lungu said that it was unfortunate that parliament which had a huge task of moving the country forward democratically was concentrating on trying to suffocate the freedom of the media.
He said that it was unwarranted for the government and some members of parliament to be calling for statutory regulation because their decision was not based on facts but on emotions.
Lungu called on parliamentarians to immediately withdraw their decision to have the media regulated by a statutory body and instead set the right precedent by enacting the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill.
FODEP?s representative, McDonald Chipenzi, said that democracy could only flourish if citizens were well informed and were willing to use their right and freedom of expression to participate in the affairs of the country by adding their voices to public debates through the media.
?The Foundation for Democratic Process believes that a healthy democratic society is not simply an arena in which individuals pursue their own personal goals but one in which information sharing is the order of the day,? Chipenzi said.
Chipenzi said that the media had made a significant contribution to Zambia?s electoral process and had represented a key dimension towards democratic consolidation in the country.
?It is for this reason that FODEP, as an organisation which has been monitoring the elections since the return to multi-party politics in the country in 1990, believes that the facilitation of the independent press in the country enhances the credibility, confidence and legitimacy of the electoral process,? Chipenzi observed.
He called on policy makers to respect the role of the media and facilitate an environment in which journalists are able to perform their noble duties without hindrance or fear. He also implored journalists to uphold high professional standards in their work.
MISA Zambia Chairperson Henry Kabwe urged the government and parliamentarians to rescind their decision to support statutory regulation and thereby allow the media to regulate itself through the Media Council of Zambia (MECOZ). He said in this way the country can continue to be a beacon of true democracy, where divergent views are tolerated and respected as a universal right as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Kabwe said that the views expressed by some of the opposition party members of parliament was an indication that the democracy that the country had fought for was in danger and could be reversed adding that the beginning of dictatorship was exhibited through tendencies of intolerance to divergent views.
He said that it was regrettable that some parliamentarians had chosen to condition the enactment of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill to the statutory regulation of the media.
Kabwe described the development as unfortunate because the FOI was meant to benefit the Zambian people generally while the media was just a small faction of the intended beneficiaries to the FOI Bill which was still pending.
?We therefore, reject these calls and urge the government and progressive members of parliament to rescind their calls because the calls were being made in an emotional manner and subjectively,? Kabwe said.
He said that the recommendations to regulate the media through a statutory body, because of their perceived biased coverage of the October 30, 2008 presidential election were misplaced. He called on the government to use the available provisions in the Electoral (Code of Conduct) Regulations of 2006 that govern the media conduct during the elections.
Kabwe said the media would not allow emotions to wash down Zambia?s democracy because of minor differences or mistakes in the media. These could be ironed out through dialogue and other established channels for the lodging complaints on the conduct of the media.
He further called on members of parliament and government to instead focus on the urgent need to implement the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) (Amendment) Act of 2002.
Source: N.Muzungu http://www.misazambia.org.zm/media/news/viewnews.cgi?category=4&id=1233311739