JUSTICE minister Given Lubinda says press freedom cannot be extended to media houses that do not pay taxes to the Zambia Revenue Authority.
And 2017 World Press Freedom Day Organising Committee chairperson Enock Ngoma says the tendency of government banning its wings and departments from advertising in critical media houses needs to stop.
Speaking when he graced the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day at the Government Complex in Lusaka today, Lubinda, who in one breath said the PF government under President Edgar Lungu was a champion of press freedom, took a defensive stance on government’s clampdown on some media houses.
You did refer to closure of media houses and I’m sure that this matter is a matter that was well explained. To my memory, all those media houses who had their licenses suspended confessed to having contravened the conditions of their licenses. One would like to ask; should media be given free realm to operate outside the provisions of the law? Is that what we are looking for? Should the Zambia Revenue Authority be restrained from collecting due taxes that are due to the taxpayers of Zambia; taxes that are meant to provide water to the poor people of Shang’mbo, the poor people of Chadiza simply because those taxes are owed by a media house? I pose these questions for you the mirrors of society to reflect upon and to generate debate around matters like that,
He noted that the PF government had been steadfast in fostering not only the growth of the landscape for the press but also press freedom.
“The media is at a crossroads and because of that, the theme is extremely crucial. In Zambia, there cannot be any doubt in the fact that as a country, we have accepted the notion that the press is cardinal to development and that free press is an important ingredient of democracy. Lest we forget or we are made to forget by some media platforms that are employed to make people forget history, let me state [that] less than a decade ago in this country, a debate raged on the regulation of the press – legislative regulation of the press was on the verge of being introduced in 2010/2011. Nonetheless, when the PF government was formed, not only did the government allow for self-regulation but it also allowed members of the press employed in government-financed media houses to associate freely. Previously, these were not allowed to belong to media associations,” said Lubinda.
“All discerning people would agree that the government of President Edgar Lungu is a champion of the freedom of the press. This is why we in the Patriotic Front government campaigned for a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum which was held concurrently with the August 2016 elections…It cannot, however, be well if I did not also state the obvious; and that is that freedom of expression has its limits…we are all aware of the stubborn fact that when the media is abused, it can become a divisive and an extremely destructive force.”
And Ngoma, who was represented by Elias Mthoniswa Banda from Panos Institute, observed that the media needed to return to collective bargaining by speaking with one voice and one mind on matters of professionalism and ethical reporting.
We need action and commitment from the PF government; we need protection of journalists from abuse from political forces and from their employers. We need [also] a fair working environment that promotes the growth of independent critical media,
“We need a conducive environment that treats the media sector as an equally opportunity employer and also as businesses. Using taxpayers’ money and state institutions like the Zambia Revenue Authority and Zambia Police to suffocate the media has to stop. Banning wings and departments from advertising in private media and those media [houses] deemed critical of the state needs to stop. Zambia has been a leader in the region in democratic reforms and freedom of its people. Our position in the region can only be maintained if Zambia gets back on track in promoting free media and free speech. Zambia needs to enact the access to information and freedom of information, among other bills, this year.”
Among the media institutions that marched from the main Post Office include Hot FM, Prime TV, News Diggers, ZNBC, Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail, Daily Nation, Komboni Radio, United Voice Radio, among others.
Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) staff also participated in the march.