Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) regional director Kaitira Kandjii has
said the Zambian government's insistence on a statutory media self-regulation
mechanism is a strategy to curtail media independence and freedom in
Kandjii stated yesterday that MISA was deeply concerned at the
Zambian government's attempt to impose a statutory media council and calls upon
the Zambian media to form a united front in rejecting this move.
stated that government's insistence on a statutory media self-regulation
mechanism was inappropriate, unnecessary and aimed at nothing but controlling
"This stunt by government is in bad faith and a strategy to
curtail media independence and freedom in Zambia. It is unacceptable and gravely
worrying that government should seek to impose its will and overturn the
Fringilla Consensus on what self-regulatory system best suits the media," she
Kandjii stated that the Zambian media had made credible effort to
develop a mechanism to regulate themselves under difficult circumstances,
characterised by unending threats.
She stated that at a minimum,
government had a duty to support, but not to impose and jeopardise this
"Voluntary, non-statutory media councils are the recommended
form of media regulation under international law, including Article 19 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9 of the African
Charter on Human and Peoples Rights," she stated. "The Declaration of Principles
on Freedom of Expression in Africa, adopted by the African Commission on Human
and Peoples' Rights states that "Effective self- regulation is the best system
for promoting high standards in the media."
Kandjii stated that on the
contrary, statutory media regulation was prone to abuse and political
She stated that MISA found it disturbing that the Zambian
government keeps changing positions.
Kandjii further stated that as
recent as January, the government through information minister Ronnie
Shikapwasha, supported the efforts of the Media Liaison Committee (MLC), in its
efforts to establish a voluntary media regulatory framework, that was industry
driven and non statutory. She stated that this turn around by the government was
unfortunate and raised suspicion.
Kandjii stated that MISA was left to
wonder what the true intensions of the government had been all along.
are left to question if the government was ever genuine in its call for the
media to regulate itself, or had long taken a stand on statutory
This suspicion is not without base given the consistent
threats over setting up the media council in the last year. The last threat was
a media council by 31 December, 2009 or government would set up one. Earlier,
government threatened not to pass the Freedom of Information Act unless media
set up a functioning self-regulatory framework, even if the two were not
related," she stated.
She stated that the Kenyan model of statutory
self-regulation, which was favoured by the government, was not an option for
"A statutory regulatory mechanism in whatever shape, will
undermine Article 20 of the Zambian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of
expression, including media freedom. It is seriously worrying that government
should look to Kenya. The Kenyan media environment is a suppressed one, with the
media operating under the shadow of draconian laws.
The conditions that
led to the statutory media council in Kenya in 2007 are well documented and
ironically reminiscent of the current situation in Zambia, that of a government
having difficulties with a watchful, assertive and forceful media," she stated.
"Statutory regulation in all its forms should have no place in a fledgling
democratic nation like Zambia".
Kandjii called for an end to this
"The minister's tone in the letter of 13th April
addressed to the MLC chairperson, Mr Henry Kabwe, and sent to the National
Conference on Media Self-Regulation, in which he expressed preference for the
draconian, Kenyan Statutory model of self-regulation, was unfortunate. His
comparison of Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC) to the disbanded Media Council of
Zambia (MECOZ) is lame. By all accounts ZAMEC is not MECOZ," she
She called on the Zambian government to review its stance on
statutory Regulation as it was not an option for Zambia.
that the MISA regional secretariat commended the work of the MLC, for its
commitment in developing a voluntary self-regulation mechanism through the
formation of ZAMEC, in the interest of fostering a professional, responsible and
ethical media in Zambia.
She stated that MISA offered its undivided
support and endorsed the launch of ZAMEC scheduled for May 3, on the World Press