Hakainde Hichilema World Press Freedom Day statement

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“Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, and Safety in the Digital Age”.

Fellow citizens, as today is World Press Freedom Day we would like to take this opportunity to state our commitment in the UPND to a free and vibrant press which we believe is an essential part of any democracy.

A Government that is open, transparent and has the best intentions of its citizens at heart should have nothing to fear from an independent press, and should in fact welcome such channels as a healthy forum for debate, information sharing and exchange of opinions.

Today we would like to remind the PF Government that the press does not exist to serve their interests. We wish to voice our concern regarding the extent to which members of the press are leant upon in Zambia. In recent years the incidence of journalists being intimidated by those that are supposed to protect them has become all too common, while those editors that value and protect the independence and journalistic integrity of their staff struggle to maintain their positions in the face of external pressure.

Regrettably, one of the results for our journalists is that they struggle to break through into international media because the quality of work is limited by the constraints placed on them by the Government and their superiors.

The routine use of media for self-serving and personal battles presents a challenge that we must overcome together. The first step must be a clear commitment from Government, opposition, civil society and business to non-interference and support for the professionalism and independence of journalists and editors.

Supporting and enabling Zambian journalists to engage in good quality and independent journalism has never been more important. The growth of blogs and social media platforms is rapidly changing the media landscape and while bringing with it many positive results we have also seen a concerning rise in the level of hate speech on such forums. A free and healthy press is needed to counter this dynamic and ensure that the journalistic bar is set high.

Let us also not lose sight of the need for greater gender equality in the profession. It is unacceptable that seemingly all our media houses are headed by one gender and appear to remain the preserve of men. Where are the women leaders at Times of Zambia, ZANIS, ZNBC, Daily Mail and many other media houses?

I wish all the scribes a productive World Press Freedom Day.

Hakainde Hichilema
UPND President

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Issued by: UPND National Campaign Centre, Lusaka

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