The Free Press Initiative (FPI) says it is concerned with the statement by government that it would come for any media house that abused its airwaves.
Ministry of information and Media Permanent Secretary, Thabo Kawana, was quoted saying in the past he had said government would not close down any media house but that he did not use the word “never”.
Kawana said this during the launch of Independent Broadcasting Authority’s strategic plan and commemoration of its 10 years existence on December 29, 2023.
He warned that media houses should avoid allowing individuals to promote hatred and disunity among citizens.
FPI Executive Director and Founder, Joan Chirwa, however stated that the worrying statements from Kawana seem to imply potential threats to the freedom of the press.
“Our organization firmly believes in the principles of press freedom and freedom of expression as fundamental pillars of a democratic society,” Chirwa said.
She emphasized that freedom of the press was a basis of democracy, ensuring transparency, accountability, and the dissemination of information to the public.
Chirwa warned that any attempt to curtail or suppress the freedom undermines the democratic values that Zambia upholds.
“As a responsible media organization, we emphasize the importance of open dialogue and constructive engagement between the government and the media to address any concerns or issues that may arise,” she stated.
Chirwa said while FPI acknowledges the government’s role in maintaining law and order, it was crucial that any actions taken were in accordance with the principles of a democratic society.
She stated that this should also be done with respect for constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens, including freedom of the press.
“Threats of closure against media houses only create a chilling effect on journalism, leading to self-censorship and inhibiting the media’s ability to fulfill its vital role in society,” Chirwa noted.
She called on the government to reaffirm its commitment to press freedom, freedom of expression, and the principles of democracy.
Chirwa urged the authorities to engage in a constructive dialogue with media organizations to address any concerns they may have.
“This will be a way to find mutually acceptable solutions that preserve the essential role of the media in promotion an informed and engaged citizenry,” she emphasized.
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