Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo has insisted that the soon to be enforced statutory media regulation will be mandatory and will leave none out.
And Kasolo says self-media regulation must be supported by statutory legislation to ensure journalists’ interests are protected, whilst guaranteeing that the growth of the media in Zambia is sustained.
Meanwhile, Kasolo observed that previous media regulatory bodies that were established had lamentably failed because several critical issues, such as the right funding models, were not adopted.
Speaking during a landmark two-day Media Regulation Indaba, set-up to formulate resolutions that will lead to how the news media will be regulated in Zambia, Kasolo presented an impassioned case for self-media regulation, but backed by law.
He cited how effectively the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) had been operating under the auspices of the relevant statute governing how lawyers within the legal fraternity were regulated.
“I must emphasise that the Government of the Republic of Zambia, under President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, does not wish to regulate you; it wants you to regulate yourselves; we will assist you to put the law into place to support you. We want you to end up with a self-created, regulatory framework, just like the one the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has,” Kasolo told 250 delegates drawn from around the country gathered at the Golden Peacock Hotel, Thursday.
“Number two, this must not be voluntary because we tried that twice in the past and it failed lamentably! It must be backed by law, just like LAZ. We must have a lock-in phrase, this is very important, within that law that the statute created can only be amended by the association’s own members in a general meeting, hence the government cannot regulate that association, you must be self-regulated. Bad journalism can never be equated to freedom of expression or freedom of the press; bad journalism is illegal. I, therefore, urge you all to rise to the occasion and deliver an effective self-regulatory mechanism to build a professional, ethical and responsible media that contributes meaningfully to national development.”
Kasolo, the former Eastern Province Permanent Secretary, bemoaned how journalists still lack adequate protection from harassment from political party cadres, who in some cases physically attacked scribes in their line of duty.
He lamented how reporters in Zambia work in difficult conditions after being harassed, but had nowhere to run to and seek protection or satisfactory legal recourse.
“There was a young man in Vubwi (Eastern Province) who was attacked by thugs, who was covering an event in Vubwi; they beat him up, together with his friend. One of those thugs proceeded to urinate in his mouth! When I heard about it, I talked to the local police that you must find these thugs, and they did. But the end result is, because there was nobody backing these journalists; there was no organisation…I think they paid a K5,000 fine, that’s it!” narrated Kasolo.
“If you had an organisation, like the one I am urging you to create, you would have sued and even taken out criminal prosecution against those people and you would have succeeded! Those thugs would have learnt not to attack journalists so that is one reason why self-regulation backed by law is very important.”
Meanwhile, Kasolo advised media practitioners to brainstorm an appropriate funding mechanism to ensure that the proposed regulatory body should be self-sustaining in terms of meeting its own operational costs and be effective at regulating the media landscape in general.
But Press Association of Zambia (PAZ) president Andrew Sakala insisted that any forthcoming self-regulatory mechanism, backed by law, should recognise and promote media freedoms as a right.
“New regulation should focus on corrective rather than punitive action,” argued Sakala.