Information and Broadcasting minister Kampamba Mulenga says the PF government will not protect media houses which are not practicing ethical journalism.
But People’s Party president Mike Mulongoti says it is not government’s responsibility or the minister’s task to protect or punish unethical media orgainsations.
The International Press Institute (IPI) on Tuesday issued a statement, stating that there was a narrowing gap for private media to operate in Zambia.
Reacting the statement, Mulenga said the government would not support unethical news reporting.
“In the six years of Patriotic Front leadership, it is only this government that has managed to issue 110 Radio stations licenses in the country and currently we have 67 television broadcasting stations. If at all the Patriotic Front government is trying to narrow in the issue of press freedom in regards to our friends in the private media, we would not be allowing IBA to issue out these licenses,” Mulenga said.
“So we as government, welcome News Diggers! if it is going to comply with the ethics. If it is in compliance with the regulations stipulated under the IBA it shall be protected. News can be bad or good but, as long as it is factual. This is a democratic country and never at one time has this government said ‘you as a private media or online media report on this issue don’t report on that’. What this government is simply saying is that please be factual and ethical.”
She stressed that journalists would be protected if they followed the ethical code of conduct.
“We are going to support the private media as long as journalist follow the ethical code of conduct,’ said Mulenga without defining the PF accepted ethical code of conduct.
But Mulongoti who is also former information minister said it was the responsibility of the law not the government, to punish journalists who were not ethical in their conduct.
“It cannot be for the minister to impose ethical considerations on others, she is a policy maker and her role is to ensure that there are sufficient laws to protect the Journalists, to protect the media houses and to protect the dissemination of information. So the issue of ethics is a proffessional issue. This is why it is important for them to regulate themselves so that they can set their own rules and regulations,” Mulongoti said.
He said the PF government was being personalistic against media institutions.
“So how can a person in a profession give you ethical conduct from where? you see this question of protecting…its the law that must protect people it cannot be government protecting anybody, it must be the law that must be protecting institutions, people and oraganisations. So for the minister to say they will not protect journalists who are unethical, they have no role in that, its the law that must protect all of us. That kind of attitude means they are being personalistic in their approach that they should be superior to others, there is nothing like that because it is the law we must all protect, so that it protects us,” said Mulongoti.
“That is why it must be a country of laws. So for the minister to say that it can’t protect any media house… who are they to say that? It must be the organisations that are part of that group who must say we don’t like this, it is not good or we don’t like that it’s not good, but in a democracy, its not possible to regulate these things. Media institutions should regulate themselves.”