Scores of Zambian journalists took to the streets today to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. The reporters marched through Cairo Road in the main shopping area of Lusaka accompanied by a brass band. The marchers -- who came from both state and privately owned media -- turned out in T-shirts of different colors but with the same message: “Freedom of Information, Now !”
Several of the journalists came from a Lusaka workshop on press freedom sponsored by the Southern African Development Community, or SADC. The vice chairperson of the Zambia Union of Journalists, Isabel Chimangeni, read the resolutions of the workshop in front of the Freedom Statue where the procession of journalists converged. One calls for the government to pass the country’s long-stalled Freedom of Information bill. Another calls for SADC to renew its commitment to abide by United Nations declarations on the protection of freedom of expression and of the press.
Media practitioners in Zambia have been pushing for the enactment of a freedom of information law for three years. The government says a proposed bill is under review and must be amended to address concerns that it would make sensitive information available to terrorists. The law – which is similar to those that exist in over 50 countries around the world -- allows citizens to access public information and records gathered by the government. Zambian journalists argue the bill will enhance the participation of citizens in public matters. And, they argue it already includes provisions that protect national security.