UNITED States Embassy in Zambia interim Chargé d’Affaire David Young says it is unacceptable to use freedom of expression to invite violence and spread hate speech.

And Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says there is need for government to re-strategise the COVID-19 public campaign messages in order to yield desired results as the current perception that the disease is not real is worrying.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services public relations department, the duo were speaking during a meeting with Siliya, Livestock and Fisheries Minister Professor Nkandu Luo and General Education Permanent Secretary for Administration Jabbin Mulwanda.

“US, Zambia value freedom of expression Chargè d’ Affaire ad interim at the United States Embassy in Zambia David Young says his Government, like Zambia, shares in the value of freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Expression as critical rights in a democracy. He, however, said these freedoms must be exercised in a respectful and peaceful manner. Mr. Young said it is unacceptable to use such freedoms to incite violence and spread hate speech,” read the statement.

“Mr. Young who was accompanied by officials from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), said it is possible for one to express their disagreement through television, radio or social media with respect and in a peaceful manner.”

Young said it was key for people to express themselves respectfully.

“The key issue is for people to express themselves peacefully and respectfully. The problem is when they go on social media, television and radio to incite violence and hate speech,” said Young.

And Young appealed to members of the Public to heed President Edgar Lungu’s call for strict observance of coronavirus preventative measures.

“Mr. Young said measures such as wearing of masks in public places, observing social distance as well as regular washing of hands with soap are effective ways of protecting oneself especially people with underlining health conditions and the aged. He also commended President Lungu’s cautious approach in reopening different sectors of the economy such as airports, schools among others. Mr. Young said his Government together with Center for Disease Control and (USAID) is determined to work with the Zambian Government to promote the health the sector,” the statement read.

And Siliya, who is also Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, noted that the perception among citizens that the coronavirus is not real is worrying.

“Ms. Siliya says Government still has a lot of work to do to convince members of the public that the disease is real so as to save lives. She says most citizens have abandoned COVID-19 preventive measures prescribed by the Ministry of Health claiming that the virus does not exist in the country. Ms. Siliya said there is need for government to re-strategise the COVID-19 public campaign messages in order to yield desired results,” read the statement.

Siliya lamented that people had dropped their guard.

“His Excellency the President of Zambia said his last address to the nation reemphasized that the disease is real. a lot of people have dropped their guard they think it’s been here since March and that Zambia has been spared of the worst but clearly we are not an island and we are seeing what is happening in countries around us,” she said.

Siliya, however, assured the US envoy that Government would continue to uphold values and protect citizens’ rights of freedom of expression.

“I know that our partners think that we are out to get the youths because they have freely expressed themselves. But is important that we appreciate that we live in a country with real politics, social context and Christian values,” said Siliya.