CHIEF Government spokesperson Dora Siliya says media houses should take advantage of business stimulus packages which government has put in place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to help them survive.

And Free Press Initiative (FPI) founder Joan Chirwa says a number of media houses, including those in the public sector, are facing similar challenges of reduced revenue, making their operations difficult.

Speaking when Chirwa presented a report on a survey to establish the impact of COVID-19 on media as businesses, Siliya said operators of media businesses should seriously consider taking a chance by applying for the resources to sustain their businesses.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Press and Public Relations Unit, Thursday, Siliya said media houses should not be shy to borrow money to help them survive in the difficult times.

“Siliya has urged media houses to take advantage of business stimulus packages the government has put in place in the wake of the covid-19 to help them survive. She says the stimulus packages and the COVID bond are not limited to a specific all business sector but that everyone, including media houses can access the funds. Siliya said the introduction of stimulus financial packages is meant to hold the hands of all business entities that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic including the media industry. Media houses should not be shy to borrow some of these monies so that they can survive in these difficult times,” read the statement.

“She said it is the desire of the Government to see all businesses thrive even with the coronavirus which she said has had a negative impact on almost all sectors of the economy. For the media sector this is very important because like others Journalists are also worried and are not sure if they will have a job tomorrow and so they can only be assured once the sector survives these harsh times. Siliya said the stimulus packages and the COVID bond are open to both public and private media institutions provided they come up with plans and measures to pay back. She said the slowdown in business operations especially for the print media provides an opportunity for them and all stakeholders to think of the best way to do their business adding that the print media still experienced challenges even before the outbreak of COVID-19. Siliya said there need for the sector to think of innovative ways to capture their readership and remain in business under all circumstances.”

Siliya commended media houses and journalists for their role in the fight against COVID-19.

“Siliya has expressed gratitude to media houses and journalists for their continued role in the fight against COVID-19 through the dissemination of relevant and useful information to the public. Siliya said journalists have continued to write stories on COVID-19, including those to do with how the pandemic has affected many citizens in various areas of life such as education and business. She commended Free Press Imitative Zambia for conducting the survey adding that evidence based discussions, debate and decision making are critical important. Siliya said it is important that those in the profession of journalism lead in providing discourse in the country that is based on evidence, as it has become common with the advent of social media, to have discussions based on rumors and non-truths leading to fake news,” the statement read.

And Chirwa said the Free Press Initiative Zambia, with support from the World Association of Newspapers, commissioned a survey to find out how media houses, as business entities, were surviving amid the pandemic.

She said the survey was important because the pandemic caught the media business, just like other sectors, by surprise.

“Chirwa said among key findings of the survey was the fact that a number of media houses including those in the in the public sector are facing similar challenges of reduced revenue making their operations difficult .She said the report has since recommended that Government seriously considers tax suspension and rebates as a way of helping the sector survive the hash economic challenges as a result of COVID-19. Chirwa said as the situation stands now, many media houses were finding it difficult to pay salaries and meet other statutory obligations in form of taxes. She said her organization is optimistic that the report will help Government to come up with specific measures that will help industry players continue operating.” read the statement.

Meanwhile, Information Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga said the move by FPI was commendable because all sectors, including the media, raised questions on how they would survive during the pandemic.

Malupenga said there was a need for media houses to be clear on the kind of relief they would want Government to consider to help them survive as Government was also dependent on taxes to offer various services to the public.