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ActionAid urges enabling environment for journalists ahead of August polls

SOUTHERN Province Actionaid regional coordinator Christabel Machila has urged government to create an enabling environment for journalists in the country to carry out their duties freely ahead of the August polls.

Facilitating at the ongoing training workshop for journalists in Choma on the role of the media in a democracy, Machila said media practitioners had a critical role of promoting peace in the country.

“The state should create an enabling environment for journalists to carry out their duty especially that we are going into general elections in August. We call for the quick enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill,” Machila said.

She also urged the media to promote peace and reconciliation between political parties.

“As the media do not litter the political space with hatred where citizens start fighting each other. Your role as the media is not to support wrong political agendas of politicians but create a link where citizens are given adequate information about those seeking public office. Zambians deserve the best not hatred propagated by politicians,” Machila said.

She advised journalists to help citizens build social consensus on matters of national importance that can change their lives for the better.

“Democracy serves as a safety valve hence you, the media, must give the people the platform to express themselves. It takes levels of good governance to change things for the better,” said Machila.

And another facilitator Joe Mapiki, who is Positive Action Human Rights and Democracy communications officer, urged journalists to acquaint themselves with the law to avoid finding themselves in conflicting situations that can lead them being sued for defamation.

Actionaid board chairperson Partner Siabutuba observed with dismay at the shrinking civic space in the country adding that if nothing is done to correct the situation many government policies would be weakened.

“When you see the country beginning to create laws that stop others from doing certain things it shows that slowly you are sliding into dictatorship,” he said. “Unless there is adequate civic space citizens won’t play their role in democratic space. A lot of media houses have reconfigured their editorial policies just to avoid being closed.”

Siabutuba said when there was no civic space there was less interaction between the government and the citizens.

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