Dora Siliya, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, says that there is no journalist in jail, at least as at May 3 this year, is certainly a reflection of press freedom in Zambia.
This is a wrong conclusion from correct premises. Dora is trying lie with facts.
It’s a fact that there was no journalist in jail on May 3, 2020. But it is wrong to conclude that because there was no journalist in jail then there’s press freedom in Zambia.
This government doesn’t need to put journalists in jail to curtail press freedom; it simply closes media outlets where they work or practice journalism. This probably renders a deadly blow to journalism than locking up one journalist in jail.
This government has clamped down on critical newspapers, television and radio stations, closing them down or ensuring that they lose their distribution on satellite providers.
This government has closed more newspapers, television and radio stations than all the governments of this country added together.
In June 2016 this government permanently closed The Post and since then it has closed many television and radio stations and reopened them.
Last month they closed Prime Television.
As one of the essential pillars of a functioning democracy, free and independent media help promote the free flow of ideas, opinions and information necessary for political processes to function, and serve as a critical check on executive authorities and powerful actors linked to them.
This government’s erosion of media freedom and continuing readiness to limit freedom of expression damages Zambia’s democratic credentials and international reputation and violates its obligations under human rights law.
This government’s intensifying crackdown is decimating the country’s media organisations and its community of independent journalists.
In the past journalists were arrested and detained in Zambia. This government is killing journalism in its entirety by closing down newsmedia outlets.
One important effect of these close downs and the restrictive media atmosphere they have created is to impede the ability of the media to hold government authorities to account or scrutinise their activities.