In light of the recent developments over the song by Chama Fumba popularly known as Pilato, the Media Institute of Southern Africa Zambia Chapter wishes to state that Freedom of Expression is a fundamental right to be enjoyed by all citizens regardless of their background and political orientation as provided for under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which Zambia ratified.
It must be stated, also, that Freedom of Expression is a hallmark of Democracy as its unfettered enjoyment contributes to functional democracy that encourages citizen participation for good governance and accountability.
Individuals should not be criminalised for merely expressing themselves in a bid to participate in the governance of the country as tax payers.
Good governance and accountability requires that leaders must be amenable to criticism and would thus need a high level of tolerance.
In our view, the law provides sufficient remedies where damage has clearly been caused through the enjoyment of the said freedom, but this should not be abused in anyway.
It is for this reason that MISA Zambia has continued to advocate for the repeal or amendment of certain sections of the penal code that deride or impede the enjoyment of freedom of expression. These include provisions in Section 69 on Defamation of the President, Section 53 on Prohibited Publications, section 60 on Seditious Practices among other laws such as the Public Order Act.
These legal provisions have been used on several occasions by government functionaries to suppress dissenting views and there by oppress individuals perceived to be opposed to the party in power.
We therefore call for these laws to be re-examined to allow for increased citizen participation without fear of unnecessary retribution at any given time.
MISA Zambia remains committed to its vision of a region in which members of society, individually or collectively are free to express themselves through any media of their choice without hindrance of any kind.
MISA further believes in a system in which Access to Information is unhindered and must be readily available.