A FEW days ago, an announcement was made by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia and the BBC Media Action that they had withdrawn their support from the body that has been working on the statutory-self media regulation bill. This means that the two institutions will no longer participate in activities that have to do with the Technical Working Group that proposed the establishment of the Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC), to subsequently drive the media regulation legislation process.

We are still at loss to understand what has happened between the Media Liaison Committee and the two institutions because the agenda to push for statutory media regulation was actually sponsored by them. In the past couple of years, those of us who have been opposed to statutory media regulation have not been able to share the stage with our colleagues in the media who thought this was a progressive move. To our shock, MISA, the institution that actually housed the so-called technical working group, has backed off. What a shocking development!

Anyway, subsequent to this, more institutions, including those whose positions we didn’t know before, have come out to reject the statutory-self media regulation bill that the UPND government is trying to push forward. Whatever has happened to our colleagues in the past few days, we can only say this is such a great development. Whatever the fight was between our colleagues, it has led to the most formidable unity among media houses. Yesterday, almost all the major media houses in Lusaka converged for the first time to speak with one strong voice in rejecting statutory media regulation. We are talking about media owners, investors, editors and other practitioners from radio, television and newspapers. The Fourth Estate doesn’t get better than that.

The interesting thing that we observe is that under the Patriotic Front, a gathering like we had yesterday was not going to be easily possible because the previous regime had captured the media. It’s a fact that others may not admit, but we know that the PF had power and influence to simply call a ‘private media’ house and order them what to do and what not to do. Prior to elections, they even ordered some private media houses not to give advertising space to the UPND. That’s how bullish the PF became and when they initiated this statutory media regulation agenda, no one, save for a few of us, could stand up against them and their ill intentions.

This also means there is no one in the Patriotic Front who has the moral right to speak against statutory media regulation because that’s what they wanted. People like Mr Emmanuel Mwamba who invited himself to the event yesterday need to explain why they are supporting our position today when they said nothing to that effect when they were in government. Is this when they have seen that statutory media regulation is bad or they are now peddling a common position because it suits their opposition agenda? Shame!

Our point is that we are sure the leaders in government watched live or listened to news and read in the newspapers what the media owners, editors and practitioners had to say yesterday regarding a law that a group of people has been trying to push down our throats. If at all the issue with our politicians out there has been that they don’t know what the media in Zambia wants, now they know. If their problem has been that the media in Zambia has not been united on this issue, now they have seen.

The message from almost any media house you will visit today is very clear. We reject statutory media regulation. In this regard, we demand that the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Justice must discard whatever document was submitted to them in the name of “self-regulation draft bill”, because we are not going to be part of it, it’s not our document and it doesn’t serve our interests.

Our position remains that there is no need to enact statutory media regulation because we already have plenty of laws that can be used to punish erring journalists. The people who have been pushing for statutory media regulation have failed to explain what problem they are trying to fix which cannot be fixed with the existing laws, therefore, they should close camp and consider this the end of the road.