Govt believes in Press Freedom – Katema

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MISA meet Dr Katema

Government has reassured journalists around the country that it believes in freedom of the press as a tenet for democracy and has encouraged the media fraternity to be responsible in their reporting.
Chief Government Spokesman and Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, Joseph Katema, notes that the media has been invaded by people who do not respect ethics and are taking advantage of the current free working environment to verbally abuse innocent people.

Dr Katema said this when he met members of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambian Chapter Governing Council at his office in Lusaka yesterday to dialogue over laws that MISA feels could be restricting freedom of expression and impeding the work of the media in Zambia.

The delegation raised concern over certain sections of the Penal Code which they said were an affront on the free media.

The MISA delegation informed the Minister that Section 67 of the Penal Code, which prohibits publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public, should be deleted from statute books because publishing false news was an ethical issue rather than a legal matter.

The delegation argued that there were other laws that could be used to deal with offshoots of publishing false news.

The delegation further told the Minister that Section 177 of the Penal Code, which criminalises having, producing, conveying, distributing or displaying any obscene matters which tend to corrupt morals, should be amended in order to adequately define what constitutes obscenity.

The delegation argued that this piece of legislation was not helpful because it was vague in all aspects, making it almost impossible to enforce.

The delegation also told the Minister that it was against the amendments made to the ZNBC and IBA Acts, whereby ad hoc appointments committees were removed from the provisions.

The MISA delegation argued that the removal of the appointments committees meant that ZNBC and IBA could remain under government control since the Minister of Information would remain solely responsible for appointing board members.

The delegation raised concern over the delayed appointment of board members for the IBA and enactment of the Access to Information Bill.

The delegation further requested the Minister to protect media houses and journalists from harassment perpetuated by political party cadres.

In response, the Minister assured MISA that as Chief Government Spokesman, he will always speak against harassment perpetuated by cadres of any political party but that journalists should also practise with responsibility.

He said the appointment of IBA Board was in progress while the process towards the enactment of the Access to Information Bill had also reached an advanced stage.

The Ministry invited MISA for dialogue after a press advertisement to the effect that the Law Review Commission was in the process of reviewing the Penal Code and was asking for input from stakeholders.
The minister said the Ministry would study MISA%u2019s submissions.

The MISA delegation comprised Chairperson Helen Mwale, Vice Chairperson Elizabeth Mweene Chanda, Wilson Mpondamali Board Member and Jane Chirwa Acting National Director.

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