Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Dora Siliya says the move by Times of Zambia to translate some articles from English to Mandarin is in a bid to entice and attract the Chinese community, thereby increasing newspaper sales.

Delivering a ministerial statement, Tuesday, Siliya said the decision was a strategy by the Board of Directors at Times of Zambia newspaper aimed at raising the much needed resources as the company has a negative asset value exceeding K600 million.

“Mr Speaker, this ministerial statement is in a response to a point of order raised by honourable Jack Mwimbu Member of Parliament for Monze Central on Wednesday 10 October 2018, alleging that the Times of Zambia Newspaper was publishing some articles in Chinese and therefore discriminating against Zambian languages. Mr Speaker the current status of the Times of Zambia is as follows. There are 286 employees. As of 30th September 2018, the company had total assets of K86.4 million with liabilities amounting to K748.5 million. This means the company is technically insolvent with a negative asset value of K662.1 million. The company also has salary arrears of three to 10 months for different categories of staff. Mr Speaker, the Times of Zambia came into being on 7 December 1970 and merged with the Times Printpak in March 1993,” Siliya said.

“In January 2016, the company was taken over by the Industrial Development Corporation under Ministry of Finance. Like any other state enterprise, the Times of Zambia is expected to generate enough revenue to declare dividends to its share holders in this case the people of Zambia. However, as earlier stated, the Times of Zambia has over the years experienced massive financial challenges including obsolete equipment, over-staffing and rigid business model in an environment disrupted by new online media. Mr Speaker, in 2015, the Board and management of Times of Zambia began to explore various ways to raise resources for the company. Among the strategies identified was to attract new business through subscription and advertising targeted at new commercial communities in Zambia such as the Turkish, the French speaking and the Chinese communities. It is in this regard Mr Speaker that the decision to translate and reproduce some carefully selected stories of the day in Mandarin was arrived at. The Times of Zambia hopes this will expose the paper to potentially new income from a community that would not necessarily be attracted to it because of language barrier.”

She said the articles did not in any way discriminate against the people of Zambia.

“Mr Speaker, the alleged discrimination against the people of Zambia by the Times of Zambia Newspaper publication of an article in Chinese when there has been no such publication in local languages does not arise. Mr Speaker, English is the official language of Zambia the language in which the Times of Zambia Newspaper has always been published. Let me emphasise once again that all stories published in Mandarin are translated from the English version in the same copy,” said Siliya.