Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says government will not tolerate insults directed at President Edgar Lungu, warning that laws will be invoked to deal with politicians who insult the Head of State.
And Siliya says the media fraternity should get offended when a politician insults the Head of State because it is unacceptable and against the values of the country.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lusaka yesterday, Siliya said government does not view the media as hostile, but that she had, however, observed that some politicians are using some media houses as platforms to insult the Head of State.
“The statement I am going to make today is to re-emphasise what I said to one of the media houses yesterday (Tuesday) and that is government continues to remain a friend of the media. Government does not view the media as hostile. But we also believe that the media houses are part and parcel of this country, they [are] part and parcel of the notion of values in our Constitution. The values that talk about respect for each other, and as such, the government feels very strongly that the media as gate-keepers cannot be used as a platform to create tension in this country by allowing people in the name of politics to demean the Head of State or, indeed, that the media hiding behind press freedom can be used as a platform to demean the Office of the President,” Siliya said.
“I did give an example yesterday when I was talking of one of the media houses that there has always been an old journalist question; if a journalist finds a child burning, do you take out your camera and start taking pictures, or do you say, ‘no, I am a human being first, let me do the right thing?’ And I believe with that example it should be very clear that freedoms of the media in this country are very well protected, but with those freedoms comes responsibility. The media should not allow itself to be used as a platform by disgruntled politicians to demean the Office of the President. We are just saying we can all do our work as journalists; nobody even need to censor you, but there should be a conscience because you are not a valueless person There is absolutely nothing wrong with one having a different opinion from the President, or even stating their position that they think the President, or the government has failed. But it can be done in a palatable manner if that is their opinion.”
She said it is not good media practice to disseminate or broadcast insults directed at President Lungu, adding that opposing views from political parties should be communicated in a manner that is not demeaning.
“It should not be done in a demeaning manner because then we lose the whole argument and the public does not understand at the end of the day what it is we are all trying to achieve as leaders. So, I want to put this on record very, very strongly that, government is a friend of the media, but that the media also has to exhibit responsibility by ensuring that it is not abused and used, Some members of the media should not hide behind media freedoms and believe that just because they did say it, they can then communicate it and broadcast it to the rest of the country, even if it is demeaning; I do not believe that is good media practice,” Siliya argued.
“So, we wanted to put that on record as a statement to just emphasise that so far as government, we have been very happy working and engaging with yourselves as the media, we believe that there is self-introspection that is going on in the media and the future of the media in this country. And I think that it is a good thing because we are having this engagement and we must always remember that media houses, even media practitioners, journalists, they are not valueless, they are not family-less, they are not traditional-less they are not culture-less; we are all just part of the same society that we operate. That’s why in various countries, there are various laws applying in various countries and that should inform how we operate.”
And Siliya added that the media fraternity should get offended when a politician insults the Head of State.
“Government cannot determine the editorial policy of the various media houses. I think my focus is that, it must apply to your conscience first of all; that you are not valueless. That you are not yourself family-less, that you are not yourself an outsider of Zambia, you are a citizen of this country. And I think that on that ground it should be enough to influence your conscience that when you are interviewing, whether it’s somebody in PF, it’s somebody in UPND, it’s somebody in NDC, which other political parties, that if you are asking them about a Eurobond, what is it that would lead them to just start insulting and demeaning people? Because you, yourself, when you are going to interview somebody, you are clear about the issue you want to interview them,” complained Siliya.
She said “tough guys” who think they can insult the President would be met by the law.
“If people want to embellish it by saying, ‘I am the tough guy so I can insult anybody, including the Head of State’, I think there are laws in this country. And we will just invoke those laws and the point is that, we shouldn’t even get there. Insulting a Head of State should not become a normal thing. It should just apply to our own conscience that good journalism can’t be about when you insult the President then we are doing good journalism, no! We want to recognise you that you are good journalists because you are showing cause for real issues.”