MISA condemns arrests, harassment of Journalists

MISA Zambia has expressed worry over arrests and violence targeted at journalists in 2013 and also citizens who have divergent views or or those who sought to express displeasure over certain government policies.

MISA Zambia acting chairperson Hellen Mwale said that they were a number of negative developments in the media, especially the arrests and harassments of journalists.

Mwale was speaking during the launch of the African Media Barometer (AMB) report for Zambia.

She was concerned  over the sluggish pace at which media reforms were taking place in Zambia, and that the delayed enactment of the constitution and the repeal of the most oppressive and archaic pieces of legislation the Penal code were also a source of concern.

Mwale observed a number of negative developments in the media in Zambia such as the blocking of some websites by authorities, the arrests of journalists and the general failure to adhere to some general professional guidelines by selected media houses.

She said the attack on citizens who gathered to pray and protest the removal of subsidies in Lusaka at a BIGOCA church in Matero was one such incident.

She also noted that Radio Mano was one of the stations that faced continued harassment during the year which included blocking of guests from appearing on the station on more than three occasions.

She said that the introduction of online media in Zambia has led to the birth of citizen journalism.

“The saddest of these developments is the continued stagnation of the constitution review process that comes with a promise of inclusion of progressive laws for the media, and this is in addition to the lack of willingness by government to repeal oppressive and colonial tools like the Penal Code which criminalise freedom of expression,” she said.

Mwale acknowledged some of the progress in the area of media reforms as including the establishment of the Independent Broadcast Authority (IBA) and government support towards the establishment of a non-statutory media regulation body the Zambian Media Council (ZAMEC).

She said that Media Freedom was the cornerstone of every democracy as it enabled citizens to enjoy their rights to freedom of express and access to information.

“It is time it took off with the right media law reforms and policy including improved tolerance for divergent views and opening up private TV and radio stations to reach all parts of the country in order to provide the divergent views that the citizens need in a democracy,” she said.

The African Media Barometer (AMB) was an in-depth and comprehensive depiction system for national media environments on the African continent