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MISA Communique

10/07/2002, Zoe Titus MISA Researcher & Information Officer Media Institute of Southern Africa:

MISA Communique
Zambian journalists march to press for enactment of Freedom of
Information, Broadcasting and Independent Broadcasting Authority Bills

Dozens of journalists from both the state owned and private media marched through the streets of the Zambian capital, Lusaka, to press for the enactment of a freedom of information, broadcasting and independent broadcasting authority bill respectively.

The march, which was staged to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the campaign for media law reforms in Zambia, was used to launch three fliers summarising the contents of the proposed bills. The fliers will be used during a nationwide campaign of workshops to popularise the bills, which are due to be tabled in parliament as private members bills.

Five media association, the Zambian Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zambia Independent Media Association), Press Association of Zambia (PAZA), Zambia Media Women's Association (ZAMWA), Zambia Union of Journalists (ZUJ) and the Society of Senior Zambian Journalists (SSZJ), which together constitute the Media Legal Reform Committee, spearheaded the march, which attracted hundreds of
onlookers, and who were given some of the fliers to read.

SSZJ president, Ridgeway Liwena, informed that gathering that
parliament had indicated to the promoters of the three bills, who are all members of the opposition, that there was a possibility of the bills being tabled for debate, as long as some defects which had been noted in them were corrected.

He said the information was contained in a letter to opposition Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) Member of Parliament, Dipak Patel, who is one of the promoters of the bills.

Liwena said victory was in sight, but he urged the marchers not to relent as the struggle was just beginning. "Parliamentary rules require that the bills are presented to the House only after a it has adopted a motion for them to be presented. As you can see, there is still a lot of work to be done," he said

ZIMA vice-chairperson Kunda Mwila lamented the failure of the ruling MMD government to improve the media laws in the country in the last 10 years. He urged the nine-months old government of President Levy Mwanawasa, which has labelled itself the "New Deal" government to give the media a new deal as far as legislation was concerned.

Speakers from PAZA, ZUJ and ZAMWA also called for speedy enactment of the bills which were initiated by the media, but which are sponsored by the opposition. Attempts by the government to persuade the opposition to withdraw the bills so that it could table its own appear to have failed.

BACKGROUND
The Freedom of Information Bill is intended to enact a law to provide for access to records held in government offices and quasi-government bodies, the Broadcasting Bill seeks to transform the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) from a government owned and controlled broadcaster to a public service broadcaster, while the Independent Broadcasting Authority Bill, seeks to establish an independent regulator for broadcasting.

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