The Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) has commended delegates of the National Constitution Convention for amending clause 4 (a) of article 38 of the first draft constitution which seeks to turn state-owned media into public media.
On Monday during debates, delegates debated the use of the word “state” to describe the public media saying the implication was that the media was government controlled and was thus subject to abuse by those in government.
PAZA Executive Secretary Patson Phiri said the delegates tasked to draft the final constitution have shown that they were above board and transparent with their undertakings.
Mr. Phiri said the development was good for it will put to rest all the concerns that the whole process was flawed.
He told ZANIS in an interview in Lusaka today that the move to change state owned media into public media conforms to tenets of good governance and democracy.
After this amendment, the clause will provide that all public media shall be free to determine independently the editorial content of the broadcasts or communication.
Mr. Phiri affirmed that this would also give the public media more trust and courage to execute their mandate of serving the public, most of whom pay levy to the media institutions.
He further commended government for not interfering with deliberations on the constitution making process saying this gives confidence in the whole process.
Mr. Phiri also said government and stakeholders must ensure that the clause is retained because that was what the public had been asking for.
And the PAZA Executive Secretary has welcomed the move by government to recapitalise the public media namely Zambia Daily Mail, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) and the Times of Zambia.
He said this will not only give the institutions an editorial independence but also a new business model that will see them making profit.
Mr. Phiri said the three media institutions cannot be privatised in their current form as they depend a lot on government assistance to meet their operations costs.
Meanwhile, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia Chairperson Nalumino Nalumino has said 15th April, 2013 will go down in history as they day when the Zambia people, through the national convention drafting the constitution, decided the destiny of the public media.
Mr. Nalumino said the amendment of the clause will create a constitutional platform for the media to operate independently and serve interests of the public instead of those of the state.
He told ZANIS in an interview that the state media was in essence owned by the public who pay levy but explained that the people only entrusted it to the state to oversee the operations on their behalf.
He said by virtue of their definition, state owned media institutions were in the past years abused by state machinery through political slander, bias reporting and mismanagement.
Mr. Nalumino said the move to amend the clauses was good and progressive adding that this will see a change in the way the public media operate.
He expressed hope that the clauses will be retained throughout the entire process and adopted whether through any mode that may be used.
The MISA-Zambia chairperson also said he was glad that the access of information clause was also amended.
Mr. Nalumino was happy that it was now under the bill of rights which will make it law to compel the state to release information to the public that is of public interest and benefit.