The Media Owners Association of Zambia (MOAZ) has urged government table the long-awaited Access to Information Bill in the next sitting of Parliament.
Association president, Oscar Chavula, said while Zambia joined the rest of the world in commemorating the 2018 World Press Freedom Day, Zambian media practitioners have continued to suffer injustice at the hands of some politicians and government officials.
Mr. Chavula said this is evidenced by the recent physical attacks on both public and private media houses and harassment of individual journalists in the country.
He reiterated the need for government to allow journalists and other media practitioners to operate freely especially that media were key in the development of the country.
“We feel that the media space in the country is shrinking and government needs to take necessary steps such as enacting the Access to Information Bill into law to enable the media freely keep in check those in power and ensure that justice and the rule of law prevail,” he said.
Mr. Chavula noted that this year’s World Press Freedom Day theme, ‘Keeping power in check, media, justice and the rule of law’, would not be achieved if the media industry in Zambia continued to face harassment from political parties and those in power.
He pointed out that journalists were operating under draconian laws that hinder them from questioning certain decisions which those in power make.
And Mr. Chavula has bemoaned the difficult environment and poor conditions of service which some journalists are subjected to.
“We are also cognizant of the fact that the attainment of professionalism will be difficult as long as our employees continue to be poorly paid,” he noted.
He revealed that the MOAZ would soon meet its members, who are employers of many media practitioners, to discuss a way forward on the matter of poor salaries, conditions of service and general unfriendly environment.
However, Mr. Chavula has reminded the media fraternity to remain ethical and professional in their work despite the challenges they encounter, reminding them that the peace of Zambia lies in their hands.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services Acting Permanent, Secretary Isaac Chipampe, acknowledged the important role media play in providing checks and balances on the three arms of government.
Mr. Chipampe said media play a crucial role in fostering transparency, accountability and good governance.
He said government has therefore introduced policies and laws that enable media to operate in an unfettered environment, citing the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) as one institution aiming at protecting citizens from abuse by journalists.
He has since urged media to regulate themselves in order to curb unprofessional acts and enhance professionalism.