Government has expressed surprised that the Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC), an important media body meant to regulate ethical and professional conduct of the media practitioners, has largely remained a white elephant since its formation nearly two years ago.
Deputy Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Poniso Njeulu said government unconditionally gave a go ahead for the media fraternity in the country to form ZAMEC as a media self regulatory body but was saddened that its inactivity was raising concerns from stakeholders.
Mr. Njeulu was speaking when he officially launched the 2013 African Media Barometer (AMB) in Lusaka today.
The African Media Barometer is a joint initiative of the Frederick Elbert Stiftung (FES), the Southern African Media Project and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) which reflects on the performance of the media not only in Zambia but in other African countries.
Mr. Njeulu said government has also decontrolled the public media so that it sets its own editorial agenda in carrying out its role of informing, educating and entertaining the public.
He said this represents government’s unwavering commitment to providing a conducive environment for the growth of a free, professional and independent media in the country.
Mr. Njeulu also thanked FES and MISA for the role they have continued to play in promoting media freedom in Zambia.
He urged the media and other stakeholders to take the findings of the AMB report seriously in order to grow the country’s media industry to greater heights.
“As a firm believer in the freedom and independence of the media, government, therefore, urges the media and all other stakeholders to take the findings of the AMB report seriously in growing our media industry to greater heights,” Mr. Njeulu said.
He added that, “I note with interest that the report is being launched against a backdrop of major developments in the country’s media industry since the Patriotic Front (PF) government came into office two years ago.
He said these include the liberalisation of the media waves which has resulted in the establishment of over 70 community and commercial radio stations and 10 television stations across the country today.
He said government was in this regard encouraging Members of Parliament (MPs) to utilise part of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to set up community radio stations in their respective areas as part of government’s agenda to take information closer to the people.
Speaking earlier, FES Zambia Resident Director Helmut Elisher reiterated his organisation’s commitment to continue working closely with its partners and the Zambian government towards enhancing media freedom.
Mr. Elisher said FES will continue to support efforts that promote media freedom, saying a free media is a pre-requisite for any meaningful development.
And MISA Zambia Vice Chairperson Hellen Mwale said the media in the country continued to grow in 2013 with the establishment of more radio and television stations across the country.
Ms. Mwale said Zambia was also making steady progress towards media freedom and urged government to enact the necessary laws including the release of the new constitution in order to further enhance freedom of expression and the freedom of the media.