Media violation vicious in Zambia-report

THE state of the media report has revealed that harassment of the media practitioners and media houses continued relentlessly with the attacks on media practitioners often turning rather violent and vicious.

The report, which is a Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia publication, stated that the authorities could not take decisive measures to end the harassment so the media practitioners could work without worrying over their safety.

According to the researcher Mr Chris Chirwa, prior to President Michael Sata’s withdrawal from the public, the nation experienced a rare  development in which a sitting Republican President personally appeared in the country’s High Court in order to testify in a case where he sued a newspaper, its proprietor and one university lecturer.

He said the rarity of Mr Sata’s court appearance arose from the fact that according to the Zambian Constitution the President enjoys immunity that insulates him from being mediatised through rigid cross-examination by the defence team before another arm of government which was the judiciary.

The report also indicated that during the period under review, there was stagnation in the constitution-making process which had dampened the hope for better and enhanced media freedom and access to information and freedom of expression provisions in the new Constitution.

It also stated that government had continued to drag its feet to amend some sections of the Penal Code and the State Secrets act that impede the rights of the media, freedom of expression and access to information.

It stated that this was a source of concern as Zambia was about to celebrate 50 years of independence under archaic laws that were drafted in the colonial era.

The report also stated that the enactment of the Access to Information (ATI) Bill remained elusive because while the campaign had increasingly been heightened, government was still consulting and there had been no time frame given to the citizenry as to when the ATI Bill would be enacted.

The researcher further suggested that government needed to re-visit its statute books in order to undertake some legal audit to systematically review and repeal existing laws that were inimical to freedom of expression and media freedom as illustrated by unending legal suits under sections of the Penal Code.