The Patriotic Front government is not ready to enact the Access to Information Bill because it is still consulting, says Labour Minister Fackson Shamenda.
Mr Shamenda told Journalists and some co-operating partners during the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day yesterday that government was still studying the matter.
And Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia chairperson Hellen Mwale says her organization is disappointed that government could issue such a careless statement on a World Press Freedom day which was an international event.
Speaking in Lusaka’s Chazanga compound where Zambian journalists in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity handed over a house valued at K30,000 to a vulnerable family of four, Mr. Shamenda said his government was treading carefully on the Bill and begged that media houses stopped pressurizing to avoid passing a bad Bill.
“Government under the leadership of His Excellency President Michael Chilufya Sata, also remains committed to enacting the Access to Information Bill. Consultations are on going to this effect,” he said.
However Mr Shamenda commended the Zambian media for adhering to professional standards though there were some sections that had resorted to criminal activities under the disguise of online media and yet harbored political and criminal motives.
Mr Shamenda also thanked the journalists for combining community service with the commemoration of their day.
He said the gesture was in line with the PF manifesto which aimed at empowering people with economic freedom through home ownership.
But Ms Mwale said the statement by the minister on the Bill displayed great levels of carelessness on the part of government.
Ms. Mwale said the statement clearly demonstrated that government had no intention of making a favourable working environment for journalists.
She said her organization’s demand to enact the Bill would however not be frustrated by such statements as she handed out copies of ‘So this is Democracy’, a book published by MISA highlighting media violations.
“The ATI Bill has been gathering dust on government shelves and has now been joined by the draft constitution. However we shall not be deterred in our demands for this Bill, we are determined to ensure a better working environment for the media,” she said.
Meanwhile World Press Freedom day (WPFD) Committee organizing chairman Henry Kabwe said the media played an important role in fighting corruption, injustice and other vices. Kabwe said intimidation and shutting down media outlets and jailing journalists did not only affect the media but the community for whom they spoke.Mr. Kabwe maintained that a free media was an integral part in any functional democracy and that freedom of expression was fundamental for development to take place. This year’s theme was ‘ Free Media Fortifies Development’.During the same occasion, veteran politician Sikota Wina was given a recognition award. Mr Wina is the first African journalist to run an independent newspaper, the African Line during the colonial era.
And receiving the award, Mr Wina said he was humbled to be recognized and further urged the media to remain focused amid many challenges.