Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mwaanga warns diplomats against attacking govt decisions in the press

Mwaanga warns diplomats against attacking govt decisions in the press
Written by Mwala Kalaluka
Saturday, September 26, 2009 6:17:35 PM

MMD parliamentary chief whip Vernon Mwaanga yesterday said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must ensure that the culture of certain diplomats attacking government decisions in the press is brought to an end. And Mwaanga said media institutions that are against self-regulation will be sorry.

Meanwhile, Mbabala UPND member of parliament Emmanuel Hachipuka has charged that the MMD government has entered into a worrisome pact with former president Frederick Chiluba.

Contributing to the debate on the motion of thanks on President Rupiah Banda's address to the House, Mwaanga referred to what he described as tutorials that were being given to the government by certain representatives of countries accredited to Zambia in some newspapers.

Mwaanga said it was against proper diplomatic conduct to start attacking government decisions using the media.

"I know that we are poor but even in poverty our sovereignty as a nation, our sovereignty as a Parliament must be respected," Mwaanga said.

Mwaanga said he hoped foreign affairs minister Kabinga Pande was taking interest in the issue so that this culture did not continue.

Mwaanga recalled that a certain Zambian diplomat had to be withdrawn from Britain after he openly criticised the British government.

"There are established channels through which advice can be given to government and we are amenable to advice," he said.

Mwaanga advised diplomats to channel their advice or indeed strong feelings to the minister of foreign affairs.

Mwaanga, who told the House that he was a member of the journalism fraternity following his service as the editor-in-chief of the Times of Zambia, advised members of the media to heed to the deadline that the government had given them to form a self-regulatory body.

"I have been a strong believer of self-regulation for many years...the tendency to reject self-regulation has led to certain negative tendencies. For those who reject self-regulation, I say think again," Mwaanga said. "If they do not take seriously what the government has said, they are going to be sorry."

Mwaanga said those media institutions that did not accept self-regulation would be "assisted" by regulating them.

"It is not a threat; it is a fact. Those who benefit from this kind of debate may think it is a threat. It is not a threat," he said.

Mwaanga said consultations on media self-regulation had been on going for the past nine years.

"There is nothing wrong with self-regulation, doctors regulate themselves, lawyers regulate themselves...what is wrong with the media? Journalism is a respectable profession and it must be kept as a respectable profession," he said.

He said in pursuit of press freedom, which he claimed to be committed to, there must also be self-restraint.

"It is not right to start personalising attacks on leaders," Mwaanga said. "When disagreements occur, let us keep them as civil as possible, so that they do not degenerate into personal attacks."

Mwaanga said he hoped that as a country, the parliamentarians would work together in the spirit of Zambia first.

Meanwhile, Hachipuka on Thursday decided to focus his debate on what he termed as the 'genesis of pacts'.

"I want to use this debate to refer to the late Honourable [Benny] Tetamashimba, who I knew very well. I met him in the late Honourable [Anderson] Mazoka's house many years ago in 1997/98. I have not known any better politician," Hachipuka said. "He was one of those first...people that were sent by the late president Anderson Mazoka to try and mediate between MMD and UPND to form a government of national unity. That was the beginning of pacts."

Hachipuka said the proposed pact between the MMD and UPND did not work out and Tetamashimba crossed to the ruling party, where he exhibited his political strength.

At this point, information minister Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha was heard telling Hachipuka that he was right but that he should not cry.

After diverting his debate to other areas, Hachipuka indicated that he wanted to get back to his main topic, which was the genesis of pacts and some MMD parliamentarians were heard telling him not to spoil his debate.

Hachipuka, amidst heckles from some ministers and deputy ministers, said even during the 2008 presidential election, MMD got into pacts with certain political parties and that it was only the UPND and PF that went it alone.

"You went into certain pacts and you won," he said. "We [UPND and PF] also have gone into a pact and this pact has nothing to do with you. They [MMD] have also entered into a pact with a former president."

Hachipuka said this was the pact that was worrying him.

"That is a pact because you want to fish in our waters," he said. "It is a pact whether you like it or not...I hope it does not backfire. This country must be governed judiciously."

Hachipuka said people that had taken retirement must be respected.

"When you start breaking laws, very careful!" cautioned Hachipuka. "I hope in our efforts to get into pacts, we should remember that we have children and grandchildren beyond ourselves.

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