Statement by Hon Dora Siliya MP Minister of Information and Broadcasting services and chief government spokesperson to launch the World Press Freedom Day

Lusaka, Zambia. 04 may 2021 /Press release/ —

STATEMENT BY HON. DORA SILIYA, MP, MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING SERVICES AND CHIEF GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON TO LAUNCH THE 2021 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY ON ZNBC TELEVISION TO BE BROADCAST ON SUNDAY, 2ND MAY, 2021, AFTER THE 19:00HRS MAIN NEWS

Good evening country men and women.
Tomorrow, 3rd May, 2021, Zambia joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day.

The day is traced back to 3rd May, 1991, when journalists, editors and publishers from across Africa gathered in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, to draft what became the “Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic Media.” This day has since been commemorated, globally, as a day of reflection among journalists about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.

This year’s World Press Freedom Day’s theme is, “Information as a Public Good.” This theme serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism. The theme underlines the importance of verified and reliable information, calling attention to the role of professional journalists in producing and disseminating information without misinformation and other harmful content.

In Zambia, the information landscape has undergone tremendous changes, especially with the advent of the Internet and social media. Ordinary Zambians now have a wide range of opportunities to express ourselves, stay informed and connect with others, both at home and abroad. The country is, however, facing a rise in misinformation, cyber bullying and hate speech.

The Government of the Republic of Zambia has in the recent past laid massive ICT infrastructure, which has exposed a significant percentage of our population to the Internet. Unfortunately, exposure to the Internet has also increased exposure to false information and rumours. There is currently more misinformation on online platforms than there is verified and reliable information.

It is against this background that Government is calling attention to the essential role of professional journalists in producing and disseminating information. We need journalists who will challenge misinformation and other harmful content, both on online and offline.

In this regard, the Government of the Republic of Zambia is desirous to see journalists identify themselves as professionals and develop a clear code of ethics and conduct for themselves. For a long time other professionals have come together to make rules for journalists to follow in the practice of journalism. Journalists themselves have for a long time not succeeded in coming together as a professional body so that they are able to set their own rules and standards.

What we see is others professionals such as lawyers coming together and making rules of how journalists should cover legal issues, doctors coming together and making rules of how journalists should cover medical issues, and Engineers making rules on how journalists should cover engineering issues. Consequently, we have too many laws, scattered in various statutes, impacting on the practice of journalism. This has to come to an end but only when journalists come together as one body that does not discriminate on the basis of whether one works for a private or public media house.
In this regard, Government is happy to note that for the first time in the history of the country, journalists have finally made headway in coming up with a self-regulatory mechanism. The process to enact the Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC) Bill which seeks to establish a self-regulatory body for the media has since advanced and will soon become law.

Countrymen and women,
Government also observes with concern that there is too much polarisation in the journalism fraternity.

Some journalists have tended to incline themselves to certain individuals or political parties at the expense of objectivity and professionalism which are some of the key tenets of good journalism. Consequently, this has potential to divide the country especially during national undertakings such as elections.

As we commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day, it is, therefore, the desire of Government to see journalists who are identifiable by qualification and who are professionally united, regardless of the media house they work for.
My appeal to the journalists in this country is that they should use this occasion to define who they are and set standards for themselves. Government will also use this occasion to show solidarity with the Zambian journalists.
Countrymen and women,

I wish to conclude by reaffirming Government commitment to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, safety of journalists and media freedom in ensuring that information remains a public good.

It is now my honour and privilege to declare the 2021 World Press Freedom Day commemoration, officially launched.
I thank you.

Good and Night and God bless Zambia.