Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) acting executive director Wesley Chibamba says freedom of expression is a human right which needs to protected and respected by everyone.

And Chibamba says there is need for the government to enact the Access to Information Bill if freedom of speech and press freedom is to be advanced.

He observed in a statement today that those in power had continued to narrow the space for journalists to operate freely by manipulating and harassing them for their political gain.

“The media is being harassed and or manipulated for political expediency. We can’t have that. We expect the media to freely report on all injustice and malpractices without fearing any repercussions. In Zambia, what we are seeing is that you can have freedom of speech but no freedom after speech. Freedom of expression is a human right and should be respected and protected as such,” Chishimba stated.

“In commemorating this important day, we would like to remind the Government and the people of Zambia of their commitment and to respect and appreciate press freedom. A free media means open criticism, objective news coverage and balance reporting, a situation we are not seeing in most of the public media houses and private media institutions. All we are seeing today is shrinking democratic space in the country because of harassment of the media.”

Chibamba stated that the theme for this year’s International Press Freedom Day was non-negotiable.

“The year’s theme challenges to have ‘critical minds for critical times’. It explicitly stipulates that ‘media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies is non negotiable. Hence, as a country we need to strive hard and ensure that there is press freedom in Zambia. For the media to be efficient and effective they need to be protected from outside influence and attacks. In short, the Government of the day should let the media operate freely without fear or favour,” he stated.

“As an organisation, TIZ is alive to the many challenges the media fraternity in Zambia is facing; the closure of media houses and harassment of journalists, to mention but a few, all pressure emanating from Government and political parties both the ruling and opposition. This must be put to an end if this country is to achieve the so called freedom of speech and association including sustainable development because for a country to develop, it needs an informed citizenry,” he stated.

Chibamba called for an immediate enactment of the Access to Information Bill.

“We are also calling for the enactment of the Access to Information (ATI) bill into law. We are challenging our listening government to quickly table this bill in Parliament and ensure that the Zambian people are given what they have been asking for in the last 14 years. As an organisation that is built on principles of transparency, accountability and integrity, we feel that citizens of this country need the ATI to be enacted into law because we want citizens to monitor and hold accountable their leaders and civil servants both in the past, current and future Governments,” stated Chibamba.