Minister of Information Dora Siliya says government has resolved to formulate a statutory self-regulatory framework for journalists, as failure by media practitioners to do so is hampering progress on the enactment of the Access to Information Bill.

And in his debate, Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo charged that the media has suffered a lot of anguish and victimisation under the PF rule.

Speaking when delivering a policy statement in parliament, Friday, Siliya noted that the media had failed to come up with its on regulatory framework despite being given the chance to do so.

“The ministry requested the media practitioners, journalists in particular to formulate a statutory self-regulatory framework. I wish to repeat Mr Chairman, against this background and as a prerequisite to the enactment of the Access to Information Bill, the ministry requested the media practitioners to formulate a statutory self-regulatory framework. Mr Chairman, I regret to report that it has been eight months since the media practitioners, the journalists in particular reaffirmed their commitment to develop a self-regulatory framework but with no tangible progress made so far. Consequently, my ministry has resolved to formulate a self-regulatory framework for media practitioners because their lack of progress is holding back a very important national bill such as the Access to Information Bill. Mr Chairman, as a ministry, we have met our corresponding targets to facilitate enactment of the bill. We have developed a government communication policy and we have developed a government communication strategy,” Siliya said.

“It is against this background, Mr chairman, that my ministry commenced the process of interrogating our legal and institutional arrangements in order to address the challenges brought about by the convergence in technology. This process includes a review of legislation and realigning of some ministerial portfolio functions. We have already identified some gaps in the system, one of them being that media content regulation is divorced from the ICT regulation. We are taking some steps to correct this anomaly as a matter of urgency. Experts have advised that the point of view of communications infrastructure and related services, convergence makes the traditional separation of regulatory functions between these sectors increasingly inappropriate and calls for a coherent regulatory regime. In this regard, I also wish to inform this house that the ministry is monitoring tax evasion using related issues relating to over the top content which is media content delivered over the internet without the involvement of a multiple system operator in the control or distribution of the content.”

But Nkombo wondered why Siliya’s ministry was spending money on ZNBC programmes to be rebroadcast on Prime TV.

“Under PF leadership, the media has suffered a great deal of anguish from your newly established independent broadcasting authority IBA. The IBA has been victimiSing stations both TV and also radio stations, this must come to an end. You must stop, ask the IBA to behave themselves. If you do recall, under PF the first victim was Muvi TV, the second victim was the Post Newspapers, the third victim was Prime TV and I was very delighted when I heard ZNBC or PF Sunday Interview had to be rebroadcast on Prime TV under a paid up programme. How do you go and ask another private TV station to broadcast your programme when you claim to be the most widely watched organisation. Honorable minister, drift away from condensing stories in the public papers and electronic media to only your activities because we pay tax. There is no pride in pretence, things are not right in your ministry madam and take this as brotherly advice from me. You can make a difference, you can. You still have one more year and a few months to make that difference so that society can be balanced, the media should not be stifled, it should not be victimised,” said Nkombo.

In her response, Siliya said government was desirous to support private media with business and advertising.

“Private media has also been struggling in this country in terms of media because they are also challenged by the same austerity measures that everyone is facing, so while they are doing a good job, government sometimes wants to hold their hand because they also need the same revenue from government. Government is the biggest spender in this country and the private media are crying to government to say please also do programs with us and pay us so we can pay our worker because government is the biggest spender and that is why, I mean people have the right to say ‘question’ when they have nothing to say, but Mr Speaker the point is that this government especially my ministry wants to support all the media in this country because we are responsible for them as a government. And I think that Mr Speaker, it’s a bit dangerous to try and pit the public media against the private media. The people who work in these institutions are just journalists who are trying to earn a living from their craft and I think that when we try to erode the confidence of the public in these institutions, especially the public media, we will be behaving very much like the case of Hitler,” noted Siliya.