PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has warned social media abusers that they will soon be brought to book following the enactment of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill to punish users of virtual platforms who are fond of propagating insults.

And President Lungu has called on journalists to avoid “accepting gifts” as this will compromise their working behaviour ahead of the August 12 general election.

Meanwhile, President Lungu says government is working to promote intra and inter-party dialogue ahead of this year’s polls to foster violent-free campaigns devoid of tribalism.

Speaking during the annual State of the Nation Address to Parliament on the progress made in the application of national values and principles, Friday morning, President Lungu revealed that the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill, aimed at protecting persons from cybercrime, would soon be introduced to Parliament to tackle mounting cases of insults being peddled at government officials.

“I have observed with concern the declining morals and ethics in our country. This is evidenced by the high prevalence of Gender-Based Violence (GBV); child marriages; teenage pregnancies; alcohol, substance abuse, and most of all social media abuse. It is the duty of every citizen to defend this nation. It is a duty for every citizen to protect this country. We are all duty-bound to work for the good of this country. This is what patriotism is all about. Patriotism also entails being devoted to, and being positive about our country, Zambia. We need to portray a positive image of the country to our children and to the outside world. We must use all available platforms, including social media, to promote the image and interests of our country,” President Lungu said.

“For those who are in the habit of social media abuse of any kind; change, use your time productively. You cannot be on social media the whole day just criticising government. If it is imperative, in your opinion, to criticise government, do so, but please, do not insult. No one will hear you with your profanities and falsehoods. And here is news for you social media abusers: Cabinet is introducing a Bill in Parliament entitled the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill, 2021. This Bill aimed at protecting persons from cybercrime will not let you go scot-free if you do not stop abusing innocent people online.”

And President Lungu called on journalists to avoid “accepting gifts” as this would compromise their working behaviour during this year’s campaign season.

“Recognising the importance of the media in our governance system, government launched the first-ever Media Development Policy in November, 2020. The policy aims to promote freedom of expression by guaranteeing press freedom. The policy is anchored on four pillars, namely, media freedom, media pluralism, media independence and safety of journalists. This development underscores government’s commitment to supporting media institutions and freedom of expression. This year, being an election year, the media will continue to play its very important role of being the Fourth Estate,” President Lungu said.

“I am a firm believer of press freedom and as we approach the general election this August, I call upon all Zambians to allow journalists to perform their function of reporting on events leading to these elections freely. Conversely, my administration and I expect journalists to observe the Electoral Code of Conduct. Biasness and untruths are not part of journalism, they belong to the drainage! Journalists should also avoid gifts and being pampered with money and material things because it is this behaviour that compromises their reporting. My dear media colleagues, I call upon you to exercise fairness, professionalism and objectivity. We need a free, but responsible media.”

Meanwhile, the Head of State announced that government was establishing a platform for intra and inter-party dialogue ahead of the August 12 polls.

“Notwithstanding the peace we have enjoyed as a country, we have continued to witness incidences of politically-motivated violence. This is not only worrisome, but also disheartening for a Christian nation with a long history of being a beacon of peace. One of the root causes of such violent acts is the increasing polarisation of our society along regional and ethnic lines, especially by politicians. This must be condemned with the contempt it deserves! To address political violence, my government is working with various stakeholders such as the civil society, political parties and the church to promote inter-party and intra-party dialogue,” President Lungu said.

“As a nation, we must develop a culture of settling our differences in a peaceful manner. We must be broad-minded and accept that there will always be others with divergent views and opinions. And in elections, there will always be the victors and the vanquished. We owe ourselves the duty to safeguard the unity of our nation. As Zambians, we have more in common than what separates us. Let us at all times foster unity and build a better Zambia for all, especially as we approach the 12th August, 2021, general election.”

President Lungu pledged to ensure that law and order prevailed before, during and after the crucial August 12 polls.

“My government will ensure that law and order prevails before, during, and after the elections. Let me repeat and stress that my government will guarantee and ensure that law and order prevails before, during, and after the elections this year. On 12th August, this year, our country will hold general elections. As a nation, we have an opportunity to demonstrate the impact of national values and principles on our democracy,” he added.

“We have an opportunity to denounce violence and hatred. We have an opportunity to embrace unity, civility and peaceful co-existence. My government is committed to ensuring that our elections are peaceful. My government is committed to ensuring our country remains peaceful before, during and after elections. I, therefore, call upon every Zambian, every political party and player, the church and the civil society to join me in assuring our people of peace and unity before, during and after the 2021 general elections. We are one Zambia, and, indeed, we are one nation.”

The Head of State added that misuse of public resources would not be tolerated.

“The National Planning and Budgeting Act No. 1 of 2020 was enacted to enhance accountability and citizen participation in the national planning and budgeting processes. In addition, the Public Procurement Act No. 8 of 2020 was enacted to enhance transparency, value for money, competition and accountability in the use of public resources. Government will not tolerate any misuse of public resources. To demonstrate government’s commitment to prudent management of public resources, the implementation of the Public Finance Management Act No. 1 of 2018 is in full force. Accordingly, prescribed action is being taken systematically against officers who do not observe the provisions of this Act,” said President Lungu.