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The media is the fuel of a functional democracy – HRC

THE Human Rights Commission chief investigations and legal services officer Kims Banda says the media is the fuel of a functional democracy.

And Banda says in a democracy, the free will of the people must prevail in order to guarantee a free, fair and credible election.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Commission Central Province investigations officer Robby Ditwayi has observed that in Zambia there is a tendency to formulate and enact laws without making wide consultations with the citizenry.

Speaking when he officially opened the review and validation of the Human Rights Commission Election Monitoring Tool for Mmedia institutions in Central Province, Banda said a functional democracy cannot be operational without a free, independent and vibrant media.

“An election is not a one-off thing; it’s a continuous process. And the right to participate in voting is a fundamental right; which is recognised under International Human Rights Instruments. But the question is: why do we need elections? An election is one of the tenets of a functional democracy. Likewise, the media is the fuel of a functional democracy. And functional democracy cannot be operational without a free, independent and vibrant media,” Banda explained. “And in an electoral process, the free will of the people is the basis of the government’s authority. In other words, a person should have a free will to vote without any intimidation by anyone. Therefore, the free will of the people must prevail in order to guarantee a free, fair and credible election. And this is only attained by engaging the media, which apparently is the Fourth Estate of government. As a [Human Rights] Commission, we take cognisant of the fact that the media plays a critical role in informing, civic education and sensitisation of the citizenry. This is because we strongly believe that the media is the fuel of a functional democracy.”

Banda also said the Human Rights Commission would want to see a level playing field ahead of the August polls.

“In a democracy, people should enjoy their fundamental rights of assembly, association and freedom of expression. And during an election, the Public Order Act will come into play. And as a [Human Rights] Commission, we want to see a level playing field when political campaigns progress,” Banda added.

He further said the Human Rights Commission was concerned that media personnel in Zambia had been victims of political violence before, during and after elections.

Banda was, however, quick to state that: “But the media can also be a source of political violence due to misinformation and unverified news reporting.”

At the same event, Ditwayi observed that in Zambia there was tendency to formulate and enact laws without making wide consultations with the citizenry.

“The 2016 Referendum failed because it lacked wide consultations; it was not widely publicised and; to some extent, was politicised,” Ditwayi said.

He further stated that the Human Rights Commission would execute its mandate in an autonomous manner because it draws its authority from the Republican Constitution.

Ditwayi also said the Human Rights Commission would continue promoting and protecting human rights in tandem with its mandate.

“As a Commission, we will continue executing our mandate in line with our mandate. And among the Commission’s functions are that we investigate all human rights violations; we do research, conduct civic education and conflict resolution, mainly through mediation. The Human Rights Commission is committed and, will continue promoting and protecting human rights in line with our mandate,” said Ditwayi. “We are committed to promoting and protecting human rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights.”

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