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Zambia Rejects Critics Alleging Lack of Press Freedom

  • Peter Clottey

Zambia's President Michael Sata speaks to journalists at the 18th African Union summit in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, Jan. 2012 file photo.

Zambia's President Michael Sata speaks to journalists at the 18th African Union summit in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, Jan. 2012 file photo.

An official of Zambia’s government has rejected criticisms that opponents of President Michael Sata are being prevented from accessing state owned television and radio stations across the country.

“I wish to just dismiss out rightly that the allegation has no merit. We have seen the opposition [members] appear on our public broadcaster ZNBC [Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation]. They are covered by many radio stations,” said Emmanuel Mwamba, Permanent Secretary at the ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services. “Remember this is an expanded [media] space right now and Zambia is doing well in that area.”

Mwamba’s comments came after Father Frank Bwalya, the leader of the opposition Alliance for Better Zambia party, accused the administration of preventing his group from using public and private radio stations to broadcast their events. The government denies the accusation.

Some journalists have accused senior government and ruling party officials of intimidation and harassment. The opposition says the move forms part of the administration’s effort to silence dissent.

“There is no merit in that accusation,” said Mwamba. “Journalists have a lot of latitude, they work freely and as they wish. Of course there [are] some responsibilities they ought to exercise, especially if they are a public media.”

Besides defending the government’s commitment to press freedom, Mwamba also addressed criticisms regarding the governance of the ruling Patriotic Front, or PF.

Some Zambians say infighting among party’s rank and file is having a crippling effect on the functioning of the administration.

Party supporters recently demanded the removal of the group’s secretary general, Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba. They accuse him of undermining the PF after he claimed different members within the party are using tribalism to force him out. President Sata and party executives are scheduled to meet to determine Kabimba’s fate.

Mwamba disagreed.

“Government is functioning very well,” said Mwamba. “There is no paralysis there is no delays that [are] occurring. Government programs are underway, we are constructing infrastructure across the country and we are carrying out initiatives and programs across the country. All ministries, departments, all agencies, all provinces are working very well.”
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