Friday, April 13, 2007

MISA demands editorial independence of state media

MISA demands editorial independence of state media
By Namakau Nalumango in Ndola
Friday April 13, 2007 [04:00]

MISA Zambia chairperson Father Frank Bwalya has advised members of parliament to demand editorial independence of state media and quick implementation of the IBA and ZNBC Acts instead of regulating the media.

Fr Bwalya yesterday said the embarrassing manner in which government used the public media to lie about the Vernon Mwaanga and Moses Katumbi scandal should remind people that the state should never be allowed to legislate on the media in Zambia.

He said government would always need a compromised or corrupted media to use as a propaganda tool.

"The majority of us in the media do realise that government's recent ill-conceived determination to regulate the media is driven by the desire to create a media terrain characterised by impediments that literally criminalise the noble duties of journalists. It is therefore very disappointing that some members of the opposition are on the wrong side of the debate," he said.

Fr Bwalya hoped Luapula PF member of parliament Peter Machungwa was beginning to grasp the folly of calls to regulate the media by a statutory legal framework.

He said Machungwa had just benefited from the wealth of a free and vibrant media that respected truth above cheap political engineering.

"We saw him in The Post edition of Tuesday watching the DVD of Mr. Mwaanga's interview in the DRC. Definitely, Machungwa left The Post offices enlightened and empowered with information that would make him debate intelligently in Parliament and make the government accountable. As such, his support for media regulation is very unfortunate," he said.

"Against this background, we advise members of parliament who are wasting their time talking about regulating the media to demand editorial independence of state-controlled print media and the quick implementation of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) Amendment Act number 17 of 2002."

Fr Bwalya called on the government to quickly commence the process of enacting the Freedom of Information Bill (FoI). He said President Mwanawasa himself cited reports in The Post about Mwaanga's irresponsibility. He said President Mwanawasa's decision was taken after accessing information on the matter.

He said that access to information should not be the privilege of the President alone but should be for every citizen.

He said President Mwanawasa had benefited from a progressive and principled disclosure by The Post.

Fr Bwalya commended The Post for making available information on what actually transpired during Mwaanga's interview in the DRC for the public to know the truth.

"As MISA Zambia we would like to take this opportunity to remind journalists working for the public and private media that ours is a noble profession and we should not allow ourselves to be used by people with a vested interest especially politicians to peddle lies and all manner of propaganda to serve their purpose," said Fr Bwalya.

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