Friday, May 04, 2012

It's impossible to fight corruption without journalists - Kitwe DC

It's impossible to fight corruption without journalists - Kitwe DC
By Post Staff
Fri 04 May 2012, 14:00 CAT

KITWE district commissioner Elias Kamanga says it is impossible to fight corruption and enhance good governance without the watchful eye of journalists. And information and broadcasting minister Fackson Shamenda has assured the media in Zambia that they are free to operate independently.

Commemorating the World Press Freedom Day in Kitwe yesterday, Kamanga said access to information remains one of the crucial tenets of democracy, the rule of law and upholding of human rights in the country.

He said the media was the fourth estate in every democratic society and it was no doubt the fundamental principle of separation of powers.

Kamanga said President Michael Sata and the PF government held the media in high esteem because of the significant role it played of providing checks and balances to various institutions and the government.

"This year's Press Freedom Day beckons the commitment the government has shown towards having a constitution that guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The government has reiterated about its commitment to seeing that the Freedom of Information Bill is enacted into law because it appreciates the power of information in the socio-economic development of the country," Kamanga said.

He said the importance of free flow of information in a democratic dispensation like Zambia could not be overemphasised as the government recognised how information could influence society.

Kamanga said World Press Freedom Day should offer citizens, journalists and stakeholders an opportunity to reflect on the need for Zambia to have a piece of legislation that would guarantee freedom of the media in the country.

And Shamenda said freedom of the press was not only a campaign promise but it was also enshrined in the PF's manifesto.

"On behalf of the President, Mr Michael Chilufya Sata, I would like to assure you that you are free," Shamenda said.

He cautioned, however, that press freedom should be accompanied with responsibility by its custodians.

"There is also a clause that you should be responsible because there are others also who would like to enjoy their freedom. So I would like to make it very clear, that friends in the media you can never get any better assurances than you are getting now," he said.

Shamenda said journalists must strive to uphold good principles in their duties even amidst political pressure.

"Some of you offered your services and became mercenaries, Judas Iscariots. Honestly, can you say for you to produce a documentary of Chanda Chiimba the III, you blame the MMD? I think individuals should have basic principles, at least the minimum," he said in reference to the freelance journalist credited for the infamous Stand Up for Zambia documentaries.

"Even Judas Iscariot realised what he did was bad, so he killed himself after betraying Jesus."

He said journalists in some other countries were being murdered and that he could only imagine if Zambian journalists would qualify to practice in those countries because some of them were ‘chickens'."

"Fortunately, we equally have among ourselves those who were courageous journalists even before they were given this freedom; so now feel free, you have the freedom to learn what you practiced," Shamenda said. "You should be celebrating and telling the world about how a free press can be achieved."

He said the challenge was now up to the journalists to help the government to come with legislation to protect journalists and those that would come after them.

Shamenda also sought to know why the media were dragging their feet on the launch of the Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC) which had the blessings of the PF government.

And Zambia Union of Journalists (ZUJ) president Anthony Mulowa urged the public media to take advantage of the government's assurance that it was free to operate professionally and independently.

Mulowa also urged the media to endeavour to capture divergent issues that affect society apart from politics.

And commemorating World Press Freedom Day in Chipata, Eastern Province minister Charles Banda said media freedom plays a crucial role in the transformation of society.

Banda said a free media transforms societies by simplifying the decision-making process with information such as empowering individuals to take control of their destines.

He urged journalists not to be used as tools of oppression but report objectively to help transform societies.

"As government, we shall ensure that we provide good legislation that would make the media flourish. Most importantly, we want to see improved conditions for the scribes so that they do not compromise their ethics by accepting bribes or favours from news sources," said Banda.

Southern Province minister Obvious Mwaliteta praised the media for playing an important role in the transformation of societies which resonated well with the PF's manifesto.

In reference to Robiana Muteka whose case was highlighted by the Post Lifestyle, Mwaliteta in a speech read on his behalf by Southern Province permanent secretary Edwin Zumbunu said the media was a mirror of society, hence the government's interest to see progress in the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill.

"This year's theme underscores the importance of the media to transforming societies…just here in Livingstone; we had a case of Robiana Muteka who had a growing tumour on his body. After the case was reported in the local media, the PF government facilitated for Robiana to be taken to Lusaka for specialist treatment," said Mwaliteta.

And former MISA Zambia chairperson Fr Frank Bwalya said young journalists should be courageous when executing their daily duties.

Fr Bwalya said media practitioners must also uphold professional and ethical demands of the profession.

And former Kitwe town clerk Ali Simwinga said the recently released draft constitution which had a clause on press freedom had addressed past imbalances.

Simwinga said the media, being the fourth estate, was an important stakeholder and journalists in the country must be extremely proud to belong to the profession.

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