The decision to restrict Zambian Ambassadors and High Commissioners from issuing statements and appearing on programmes without getting permission has nothing to do with politics but for control and order, says newly-appointed Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga.

In a letter written to media heads of ZNBC, Times of Zambia, Daily Mail and ZANIS dated January 7, 2020, Malupenga stated that the public media should not use or publish or circulate media statements from Zambian Missions abroad that have been issued without clearance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“This serves to advise that government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has directed state owned media organizations namely Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail and ZANIS not to circulate, publish or air any media statements or content from Zambia’s Missions abroad, which have not been approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the letter read.

“In the same vein, all appearances on television through interviews and special programmes and feature profiles in the newspapers by Zambia’s Ambassadors and High Commissioners have to be sanctioned by the office of the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through a letter. This directive, which is in line with laid down government procedures and guidelines will help to ensure proper organization, consistency and coordination in the dissemination of information to the public.”

Explaining the directive, Malupenga said there were guidelines for government’s communication procedure, which should not be misconstrued as political.

“Officers from missions abroad have not been banned from issuing statements, they have just been guided on instructions to follow; the instruction that they cannot issue statements to the media, which have not been cleared by Foreign Affairs. Those are the normal guidelines in government communications where they will need to get authority from the offices that supervise their operations. Those supervising the officers from missions abroad should not wake up and learn of things from the media instead of things going straight to their offices. Those measures, those controls… this is a clear guideline in terms of government communications. If you are as a journalist, you are doing everything on your own without the editor, there will be no control, meaning whatever you want to say will be said,” Malupenga explained in an interview in Lusaka.

“So, if there is any Ambassador or High Commissioner who wants to appear on ‘Let the people talk’ radio programme, before they go to appear, they are supposed to notify Foreign Affairs and say, ‘I have been invited to appear for a programme on this subject of discussion’ and then the Permanent Secretary at Foreign Affairs is going to say, ‘go ahead, and on this subject, there are limitations, you can go this far, beyond this, you cannot discuss’ or they will tell you ‘don’t go.’ If the statement is not cleared by Foreign Affairs, it cannot be published.”

He said the notice issued last week was not political and did not target any individuals.

“We are not looking at individuals, we are looking at all officers. That statement did not mention any names and mainly this is press attaché’s, High Commissioners or Ambassadors. So, when you notice a divergence from the normal procedures…that is why we are reminding them. This is not about politics, this about communication in government. As you know, I am not a politician, politicians are dealt with at the party secretariat. This is a pure administrative issue. Even for me to talk to you, I need to get authority. I don’t think it is contentious; there is nothing political about it,” said Malupenga.