Zambian media steps closer to freedom
Zambia has today joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day under the theme “News Voices – Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies.” This year’s commemoration coincides with a high point in Zambian media in the form of some provisions in the draft Constitution.
The draft, which is currently under a 40 day public review, specifically provides for media freedom unlike past Constitutions that have made no distinction from general freedom of expression.
The draft, in the Bill of Rights, guarantees the freedom and independence of electronic, print and other types of media. It also provides for freedom from state censorship.
“The State shall not exercise control over, or interfere with, any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any publication or the dissemination of information by any medium; or penalise any person for any opinion or the content of any broadcast, publication or dissemination,” it states in part.
The draft Constitution states that broadcast and other electronic media shall be subject to licencing procedures not for the purpose of control but regulation of signal distribution. It states that the licencing procedures are to be free from political or commercial interference.
And the draft Constitution provides for the state owned media’s freedom from state control.
“All State-owned media shall be free to determine independently the editorial content of their broadcasts or communications; be independent and impartial; and afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions,” it states in part.
Should these provisions be included in the final Constitution, Zambian media will have constitutionally guaranteed freedom, a state of affairs they have desired for a long time. For many years, the media and other stakeholders have also campaigned for the enactment of the Freedom of Information bill into law, a process that has not yielded the desired result so far. The PF government has, however, pledged to implement the FOI law by August this year.