The Zambian government says it will seek new statutory regulation of the media because the country’s media have failed to regulate themselves. But media organizations have criticized what they say is the government’s desire for new regulations, arguing that such desire is made out of emotions.
New information and broadcasting services minister Ronnie Shikapwasha told VOA some Zambian media houses have been unprofessional in their reporting.
“The government is not planning. What is coming out is that a number of people in the country and members of parliament felt that unless the media can regulate themselves, which they are failing to do, it is necessary to put second guidelines for them within the law. If you followed the reporting six weeks prior to the election, there were a lot of unprofessional reporting, unsubstantiated reporting, lies that were being reported by certain section of media, and this angered the stakeholders,” he said.
Shikapwasha defined stakeholders as all Zambians who read the newspapers and want the papers to report nothing but the truth.
He denied that the government’s desire for new statutory regulation on the media is an attempt to stifle free speech.
“The government doesn’t want to stifle the free flow of information, but the government has to protect everybody’s human rights, including those that are being reported upon and those that are reporting. It is necessary that the law does protect everybody. You can’t go and injure somebody by writing a fabrication. That person has rights that they enjoy,” Shikapwasha said.
Shikapwasha said the government wanted to strengthen the law and the courts to prosecute bad reporting.
“What’s been found by all these people is that the law is weak and therefore we have to put the law that is going to help everybody, including the reporters themselves,” Shikapwasha said.
He said the Zambian government is not afraid of criticism. Instead he said the government is concerned about untruthful reporting.
“The government is not afraid of criticism. To the contrary, criticism is very important for the young democracy of Zambia. What we have a problem with, like all the other Zambians, is where untruthful and unprofessional reporting is being done that doesn’t help the young democracy,” he said.Shikapwasha denied the new statutory regulation would be draconian. Instead he said even media organizations would have an input into the formulation of the regulation.