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 2009-08-01 03:04 pm Back to NEWS
IFJ expresses shock at charges against Kabwela

THE International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed shock at what they termed "misleading charges" slammed on Post news editor Chansa Kabwela. 

Director of IFJ Africa Office Gabriel Baglo called on the government to drop the prosecution of Kabwela.

"We are shocked by the misleading charges slammed on our colleague," Baglo said. "She only made a perfectly ethical and considerate judgment to alert the authorities to the public health crisis. She has no case to answer and charges against her must be dropped."

Baglo said the charges against Kabwela were the more baffling because she deliberately chose not to publish the alleged material and, instead, sent it to the authorities.

"The government is seeking to make media a scapegoat to blame for the terrible state of the health care in Zambia," Baglo said. "They are simply blaming the messenger because they do not like the message."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide.

And Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia national director Hewitt Chizyuka called upon the government to condemn the harassment of Post journalists and drop unfair charges against Kabwela.

Closing a three-day management workshop for community radio stations organised by MISA Zambia and other cooperating partners in Livingstone last Wednesday, Chizyuka appealed to journalists not to be used by people to settle personal or political scores.

"Realising long before, that a vibrant, free pluralistic and diverse media is at the very fabric of democratic governance, we stand resolved to continue promoting media freedom, and henceforth call upon government to openly condemn the harassment of the media and demonstrate commitment to this by dropping all unfair charges and court cases against media personnel," Chizyuka said. "In the same vein, we urge all political parties to restrain their cadres from harassing media personnel."

He told acting Southern Province permanent secretary Emmanuel Nchima, who represented permanent secretary Darius Hakayobe, that in Livingstone a journalist of a named independent paper was recently a victim of harassment and that the situation risked getting out of hand.

"On behalf of MISA Zambia I wish to categorically condemn manoeuvres to intimidate the media through unnecessary court actions, arrests and beatings of media personnel and continued threats to close down media houses that offer a platform for critical voices, ambiguous and restrictive laws such as those dealing with pornography," he said. "The so-called 'insult' laws and many others need to be reviewed and clearly defined so as to improve the media environment in which we operate. These laws date as far back as 1910 and 1920 and our present environment is different."

Chizyuka said the lack of the implementation of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) Act and the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) Act was worrying.

"We cannot continue to hide our concern about the lack of implementation of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) Act and the ZNBC Act. These laws will improve the media independence and impartiality of the broadcasting media in the country and there is no reason for further delays in operationalsisng them. We may all know that a free and more independent public broadcasting is guaranteed under the ZNBC Act, while the IBA Act enhances the independence of the entire broadcasting sector," Chizyuka said. "There is no justifiable reason why the two Acts cannot be operationalised. ZNBC still continue to be under the control of government even when the current law, as enacted by Parliament , says otherwise. Similarly the ministry of information continues to control the issuance of broadcasting licenses when the IBA Act as an independent body should do so."

Chizyuka said Zambians needed to be ashamed that they continued to drag their feet over straightforward legislation aimed at not only improving the operating environment for the media but also strengthening the country's democratic governance.

He urged personnel from the three radio stations in Southern Province - Musi-o-Tunya, Zambezi FM of Livingstone and Sky FM of Monze - that attended the management training workshop to take the training as an enhancement tool for good governance.

"The role of that radio station play in the democratic governance of this country cannot be over-emphasised. Sky FM Radio has made free speech a reality through its Sky Forum here in Southern Province and parts of Lusaka. It is therefore important that the radio stations strengthen their own self-sustainability and independence," he said.

Chizyuka urged the media in Zambia to be fair, accurate, impartial and truthful in their reporting.

Chizyuka revealed that MISA had purchased broadcasting equipment for 15 community radio stations and was in the process of buying more equipment for eight other stations to improve the radio reception.

And Nchima said government had observed that most media houses lacked editorial polices, well-defined mission statements and outlined visions.

"Media is a good platform for information dissemination, but it is sad to note that some media personnel in Zambia are mishandling vital information in their coverage. With this regard, training remains a major concern in all media houses in the country if we are to overcome this. I therefore, appeal to you MISA to take training of media personnel seriously and make it an ongoing programme so that press freedom is understood by all stakeholders," he said.

Nchima said the government was aware of the struggles that community radio stations faced in resource mobilisation.

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