MISA drags govt to court over National Assembly media coverage

Hellen Mwale
Hellen Mwale

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia Chapter has filed a petition in the High Court challenging the decision by the National Assembly to bar Journalists from the Private media from covering the official opening of National Assembly last week and the barring of Private media journalists from covering State House functions.
In the Petition filed by MISA Zambia Chairperson Hellen Mwale through Lawyers Dindi and Company, the Attorney General and Speaker of the National Assembly are the first and second respondents respectively.

MISA its petition argues that despite its member Journalists representing the foreign media and private media submitting names to ZANIS for accreditation as directed by the Clerk of the National Assembly, they were declined permission to enter the Parliament buildings and Press Gallery by security officials at Parliament on the basis that they were not permitted by ZANIS.

MISA has submitted that the conduct of the Executive and Legislative branch of the State in this regard is undemocratic and amounts to censorship.

The media body complains that the rights to freedom of the Press as protected under Article 20 (1) and in particular Article 20 (2) of the Constitution of Zambia CAP 1 of the Laws of Zambia have been so far infringed and the violation is likely to continue if the Court does not make the declarations sought.

MISA Zambia further submits that the trend for the State to discriminate against the private media in the enjoyment of the freedom of expression and the Press has been growing and unless the Court makes the declaratory orders and reliefs sought, nothing will stop or guide the State apparatus from continuation of this vice.

MISA points out that the Office of the President of the Republic of Zambia has for instance banned all private and freelance media in Zambia except the Post Newspaper from entering and covering events of a public nature at State house and rallies addressed by President Michael Chilufya Sata, and that private media Journalists are left to monitor the public events at State House via the Facebook page purported to be hosted by the President.

MISA wants a declaration that the decision of the Clerk of National Assembly and ZANIS to ban the private media from entering the Parliament precincts to cover the Official opening of the Fourth Session of the Eleventh National Assembly on 19th September, 2014 is a violation of the Freedom of the Expression and the Press as protected under Article 20 of the Constitution of Zambia.

The media body also seeks a declaration that there is no requirement under the Constitution of Zambia for journalists to seek permission from ZANIS to cover the President or other Public figures or Public events of public and national interest including but not limited to the official opening of Sessions of the National Assembly.

MISA also wants the Court to issue a directive to State House not to discriminate against accredited journalists from the independent media in preference to those from public media enterprises in issuing licenses to enter State House to cover events of a public nature and for which journalists from the public sector and the Post Newspaper have been invited.

MISA Zambia further seeks the Court’s declaration that the standing decision by the President of the Republic of Zambia to ban journalists from the independent and freelance media from covering public events at State House and other public places attended by President Michael Chilufya Sata is unconstitutional and therefore null and void.
( Thursday 25th September 2014 )