TIZ asks govt to expedite ATI bill

TRANSPARENCY International Zambia has appealed to the government to hasten the process of enacting the Access to Information Bill into law to enhance the democratic aspirations of the country.

Executive director Maurice Nyambe said TIZ joined the rest of the world in celebrating this year’s World Press Freedom Day, which fell on Sunday under the theme “Journalism without Fear or Favour”.

Nyambe said Press Freedom day allowed the country to take a deep introspection and reflect on the progress that had been made over the years in enhancing media freedom at all levels of society.

“As TIZ, we believe that the media as the fourth estate plays an absolutely critical role in highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of our governance, thus contributing to the enhancement of accountability and to our democratic aspirations as a country. Currently, the world is glued to their television screens, phones and radio waiting for latest information from the media on the deadly coronavirus. This is how important media is not only for Zambia but the entire world,” Nyambe said.

He said the fact that a free and vibrant media was an important aspect in the fight against corruption, it was incumbent upon everyone to do everything in their power to ensure that the media operated in an environment where they were able to do their work without fear or favour.

“It is however sad to note that the overall environment within which the media in Zambia operates continues to be one fraught with a myriad of challenges, more so for journalists from private media houses who are increasingly treated with suspicion especially from the ruling elite and have in some cases become victims of violence from overzealous political party cadres,” he said. “As we join our gallant journalists across the entire media spectrum in commemorating this day, we would like to pay glowing tribute to them for their dedication and commitment to duty despite the challenges they continue to encounter. In doing so, we wish to encourage all journalists in Zambia to continue upholding their professional integrity and to stick to the ideals of their noble profession as they perform their crucial function as the fourth estate.”

Nyambe said the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day would not be complete without reflecting on some of the obstacles that threatened the continued existence of a free and vibrant media in Zambia.

“In this vein, we note with deep concern the continued absence of access to information legislation despite commitments that have been made by successive governments over this issue. We therefore make an earnest appeal to the Patriotic Front government to hasten the process of enacting the Access to Information Bill into law as we believe this will be an important step towards enhancing our democratic aspirations as a country,” he said. “We also note with continued sadness government’s adamant stance over the issue of Prime TV, which has been taken off the air over what we consider to be unconvincing reasons advanced by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA). We therefore wish to call upon the IBA that on this day when we are celebrating press freedom, they should exercise a gesture of good will by reinstating Prime TV’s broadcasting licence.”

Nyambe urged everyone to reflect on the work of journalists from both the public and private media and appreciate the efforts that journalists were making in performing their function amidst difficult conditions.

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