Zambian journalists commemorate world Press Freedom day

Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Kennedy Sakeni has underscored the Patriotic Front (PF) government’s commitment to enhancing press freedom and independence in the country.

And the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has praised the PF government for living up to its pre-election promises of professionalising the public media and general improvement of the media environment in the country.

Meanwhile, the 2013 World Press Freedom Day Organising Committee has urged government to put in place measures that will protect journalists from harassment and beatings by political party cadres.

Speaking when he officiated at this year’s World Press Freedom Day commemoration in Lusaka today, Mr. Sakeni said the PF government was determined to improve media operations in Zambia.

Mr. Sakeni, who is also Chief Government Spokesperson, explained that unlike the former government which controlled the public media, the PF government has allowed the media to set its own reportorial and editorial agenda professionally without any undue influence from government.

He further explained that as a result, the Zambia Daily Mail (ZDM), Times of Zambia (ToZ) and the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), have now become highly attractive and competitive in both quality and quantity of their media output on the market.

He reiterated that the PF government will remain irreversibly committed to the enactment of the Access to Information Bill as outlined in its party manifesto.

Mr. Sakeni also pointed out that the process towards the enactment of the bill was firmly underway while the Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC), which is a media self regulatory and non statutory body, was in place together with its board.

He said this was one of the main landmark media developments that the PF government has scored towards attaining a free and independent media.

Mr. Sakeni noted that these and other measures were a clear testimony of the PF government’s commitment to media freedom and the independence of the Zambian media landscape.

He has since pledged that the PF government will continue to systemically review and implement media laws that were aimed at consolidating the recent gains.

Mr. Sakeni said government will undertake review and implementation of the provision of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) Act of 2002 among many others.

And speaking at the same function, Acting Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) chairperson, John Chola praised the PF government for living up to its pre-election promises of professionalising the public media and generally improving the media environment in the country.

Mr. Chola said the public media have since improved news coverage to include divergent views from opposition political parties and civil society organisations unlike in the past where prominence was given only to the ruling party.

He further said government has allowed the media fraternity to launch a non-statutory media regulation body that had stalled following the previous MMD government’s instance on the statutory media.

Earlier, 2013 World Press Freedom Day Organising Committee chairperson Patson Phiri urged government to put in place measures that will protect journalists from harassment and beatings at the hands of political party cadres.

Mr. Phiri noted that the development, if left unchecked, has the potential of reversing the gains that the media industry has attained since the PF assumed government in September 2011.

Information and Boarding Services Deputy Minister, Poniso Njeulu and Information and Boarding Services Permanent Secretary, Amos Malupenga were also in attendance at the commemorations of the media day.

Earlier, Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Kennedy Sakeni handed over a reconstructed house to a vulnerable family in Kamanga Compound, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity and other stakeholders, as part of this year’s commemorations.

ZANIS