INFORMATION and Media minister Chushi Kasanda has guaranteed editorial independence to the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.
Addressing the media before meeting senior management of her ministry, Kasanda said the ZNBC was a creation of Parliament through an Act of Parliament, Chapter 154 of the Laws of Zambia.
She said ZNBC was a media platform for all Zambians to exercise their freedom of expression.
Kasanda said freedom of expression was a cornerstone of democracy and underpins good governance, public accountability and respect for all human rights.
Kasanda, who took office yesterday following Parliament approval of the realignment of her ministry, said the UPND Alliance government would allow ZNBC to operate as a public broadcaster.
“Every Zambian has the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through any media and regardless of frontiers,” he said. “The UPND-led government respects the right to freedom of expression and will promote the free flow of information and ideas by allowing ZNBC to operate as a public broadcaster so that whoever is not covered by the private media will find space on the ZNBC platform.”
Kasanda said the government, through her ministry, would enhance legislation so that ZNBC and other public media outlets serve as common platforms for all Zambians to exercise their freedom of expression.
He said the substitution of broadcasting by media in the realigning process was simply the reaffirmation that her ministry was responsible for all forms of mass media and not just broadcasting.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services has been renamed Ministry of Information and Media.
Parliament on Tuesday approved the change of nomenclature.
Kasanda noted that there had been a slight adjustment in the portfolio functions whereas Cinematography Policy and Theatre Policy had been transferred to other line ministries.
“This ministry will now focus on three core functions, namely, (a) Broadcasting and television services; (b) Information and Media Policy; and (c) Information Services. Under these three core functions, the President has tasked the ministry to prioritise three key issues: 1. Access to Information…Access to information held by public authorities is key to promoting transparency, good governance and the full participation of citizens in the democratic process. The President, through public pronouncements and through the UPND manifesto, has tasked this ministry to facilitate enactment and implementation of Access to Information legislation in line with international standards, taking into account the Commonwealth Freedom of Information principles which were endorsed by Commonwealth law ministers and noted by Heads of Government in Durban in 1999,” she said. “We will not be looking at why previous governments did not enact the legislation. The President has directed that Access to Information legislation must be enacted. We have to move in that direction and we will move with speed.”
Kasanda further highlighted the need for media self-regulation.
She said the UPND government believes that media organisations and journalists should set and supervise their professional standards and codes of practice.
Kasanda added that journalistic ethics required that the media should report accurately and fairly, issue corrections whenever they get facts wrong, allow a fair opportunity to reply when appropriate and, subject to legitimate public interest, respect the right to privacy, particularly of minors.
“We also want media owners to recognise that ownership entails a commitment to inform citizens about matters of public interest and not merely to advance partisan or personal interests,” she said. “It is part of the media’s responsibility to ensure that journalists are adequately trained and that their private interests do not distort their reporting of public issues. It is our considered view that media and journalists’ organisations should establish credible complaints systems to adjudicate on alleged breaches of professional codes of practice and to provide members of the public with effective redress for unprofessional behaviour conduct.”
Kasanda also said she would be getting an update from the permanent secretary and his team on the media self-regulation mechanism process.
“We need to conclude this process as soon as possible. Let me conclude my remarks by stating that we have a lot of work to do as government. People’s expectations of this government are very high and the President has said that we should exceed the people’s expectations. We will be addressing a lot of issues in the information and media sector,” said Kasanda.