Friday, March 23, 2007

Media ethics Bill will lead to censorship - Saki

Media ethics Bill will lead to censorship - Saki
By Chibaula Silwamba
Friday March 23, 2007 [02:00]

THE media ethics Bill will lead to censorship and hinder free flow of information, United Liberal Party (ULP) president Sakwiba Sikota has warned. Commenting on politicians' calls for the introduction of a media ethics Bill, Sikota said ULP was disturbed by the growing trend of intolerance towards the media. "Recently we have seen attempts to yoke the Freedom of Information Bill to media ethics Bill. We have noted that these positions have been taken because certain politicians have recently been criticised in the press. This is clearly a knee-jerk reaction from these who feel the press has not been kind to them," Sikota said.

"In addition we have seen those who have always wanted to introduce repressive media laws sensing an opportunity to seize upon persons or parties, which previously stood for liberties such as press freedom, turning against their previous liberal stances to create a conservative coalition against media freedom." Sikota said the conservative coalition against media freedom wants to introduce a media ethics Bill that would lead to restriction as to who could write or practice as a journalist. "The conservation coalition against the media also wants a Bill, which would allow for penalties like deregistration or even criminal sanction against newspapers, editors and journalists," he observed.

"The argument is that journalists are 'irresponsible' and politicians need to have some protection against the media." He said the people against media freedom argued that currently there were voluntary regulatory bodies that could not compel any media body to become a member and even a member to compel them to do anything to correct the mistake made to someone.
He said people who were unfairly attacked by the media could sue for libel. "I have often been unfairly treated by the media. This has, however, never made me decide that there is a need to clamp down on the press," Sikota said. "Even The Post newspapers have had what I consider to be unfair or defamatory editorials about me. As a public figure I must firstly learn to have a thick skin and as a liberal, I must secondly be prepared to defend the right of the press to publish stories that may not be accurate on me."

He observed that the media had never demanded that they should have immunity from civil libel. "The press is therefore already under control by ways of the threat of libel suits," said Sikota. "We in the ULP believe that we should have a more permissive society and not retract into censorship and repression."

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