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 2009-09-08 04:10 am Back to NEWS
Itís not right to use state institutions to control the press, says Milupi

Luena Independent member of parliament Charles Milupi has observed that currently there is a trend of muzzling the private media in the country using state institutions. In an interview, Milupi who is also parliamentary public accounts committee chairperson said the trend was synonymous with the one party state, which ended in 1991.

"It is not right to use state institutions to control the press. We need to go back to our recent history as a country. In the one party state no dissenting view was accommodated, until people got fed up and fought that. People fought for a democratic dispensation, which also implied a free press. You know we have three arms of government: the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. And it is often said that the fourth estate are the press," Milupi said. "Now if you try to muzzle the press using state institutions and statutory regulation then you are being undemocratic. We are talking about development, but how can we develop if the press are muzzled? The more free the press is, the more development we shall see in the nation. Now you can't start using state institutions to muzzle the press. We are the state, and speaking for myself I'm not in support of muzzling the press. So, those doing it are not representing us the state but themselves. It is an old-fashioned tactic."

Milupi said those talking about development should also understand that the media were partners in the process.

"You cannot develop a society without understanding what the people want; you only understand that when the press bring it out. And just because you as the Executive you have the majority in Parliament then you say 'we regulate the media through a statutory body', that's wrong. Sometimes I get surprised by the state media, which carry huge reactions to stories they do not originate. You find that they didn't publish the story in the first place, but they just give a huge reaction. It all points to manipulation from those in authority; and this should not be the case," he said.

Milupi said gagging the media was a serious drawback to the one party state.

"I know I'm talking to you [this reporter] from The Post. But even then I will say 'let us remember where we have come from and what The Post has done in contributing to democracy'. In my view if The Post was not involved in 1991 we could still be in the one party state because there was no any other voice besides government media. Zambians must recognise that muzzling the press is a drawback to one party," he said.

Milupi said the media had always played a very big role in exposing economic evils.

"We have always talked about prudent use of our resources in the country. And is it not the press who have been exposing economic scandals? Recently the nation was informed about the Ministry of Health scam by the press, and people across the country reacted. Now just because you do not agree with the media in one way then you say we are going to regulate them or suppress them, it's wrong," said Milupi. "Even me, there are times when I have not agreed with The Post. Sometimes they have hammered me but I've not advocated for statutory media regulation or suppression. Right now the poor people of Limulunga whom I represent are able to know about what's happening in the country because of The Post. And I urge you people to do more so that all the rural people are well informed. So those trying to muzzle the press are like the one cutting his nose because he thinks it shouldn't be the way it is; then later he realises that he has hurt himself."

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