THE Government has distanced itself from the barring of journalists from private media houses from covering the official opening of the Fourth Session of the 11th National Assembly by President Michael Sata last Friday.
Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Joseph Katema said at a Press briefing in Lusaka yesterday that the Government had no intention whatsoever to regulate, let alone to muzzle, the media.
The minister said the Government had sworn to uphold the tenets of democracy and protect the Constitution which was anchored on the protection of human rights and freedoms of the citizens of Zambia, among them, freedom of expression.
He said the Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS) accredited 129 media practitioners to cover the event but the operational arrangements were left to the National Assembly, which was the host of the event.
Dr Katema said there was no directive from his office to bar any media organisation from covering the official opening of Parliament.
“Even Government takes issues to court and it loses and that signifies that there is independence of these institutions,” Dr Katema said.
“There is no interference of the Executive in the three other institutions of Government, even the media which is the Fourth Estate, and there will never be.”
Dr Katema said his ministry, through ZANIS, carried out its responsibility to accredit the media for the event and the logistical arrangements were left for the National Assembly to decide.
He dismissed allegations that the Government had gagged the media, saying it did not stop any media organisation from covering the event.
“The Executive has no intentions whatsoever to interfere with the operations and decisions made by the other wings of Government,” Dr Katema said.
“We have given you accreditation to cover events throughout the country but you have to respect the wishes of the institutions where you are going to operate from. As the media, you are obliged to observe their regulations.”
Dr Katema said the Government had continued to build an environment where the media, who were its partners in development, would freely and responsibly collect and disseminate information to the public.
He said this was evidenced by the Government’s freeing of airwaves through the operationalisation of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act of 2002 and amended in 2010.
Dr Katema said Government had since approved the IBA Board in the spirit of its hands-off-policy which encouraged media independence and self-regulation and that the IBA Board would be announced soon.
“The IBA is now operational, as you are aware, with over 70 radio stations and 12 TV stations now on air countrywide,” Dr Katema said.
Times of Zambia