State of the media in Southern Africa - 2004

By Kenny M. Makungu
Kenny Makungu is a Lecturer of Journalism and Mass Communication, in the Department of
Mass Communication, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, at the University of Zambia
(UNZA). He is the holder of a Masters Degree in Journalism Studies, obtained from the
University of Wales, College of Cardiff, a Bachelor of Mass Communication Degree from the
University of Zambia, and a Diploma in Journalism from the Evelyn Hone College of Applied
Arts and Commerce. He is currently head of the Department of Mass Communication at UNZA.
A struggle for media freedom
During 2004, Zambia made little progress in its struggle to have the Freedom of Information
Bill re-introduced in Parliament and legislated. The government and media also failed to have
the names of Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and the Zambia National Broadcasting
Corporation board members taken to the National Assembly for ratification.
These two issues served to show a major difference in opinions. The Government feels that in
spite of the progress the country has made in liberalising the media - for example, through the
passing of laws which brought the IBA and ZNBC into being - it should retain some measure
of control. However, press freedom advocates believe the media should be left to serve the
interests of all people, regardless of their political affiliations.
In February 2001, Government had published a draft Freedom of Information Bill that would
have made it easier for the press to access Government-held information, but the Bill was
withdrawn before being tabled in Parliament. It has not been reconsidered.
Triumph in the courtroom
The IBA/ZNBC issue resulted in a High Court case that was won by six media bodies, which
jointly sought a judicial review following a decision by the Minister of Information and
Broadcasting Services, Mutale Nalumango, to veto some of the people recommended to sit on
the boards by two appropriate ad-hoc appointment committees.
In his judgement on December 23, 2004, Lusaka High Court Judge Gregory Phiri said the
Minister’s decision in the context of the new legislation not only promoted non-compliance
with the new law, but also prevented and frustrated the vital media law reforms in Zambia.
“The decision clearly prevents the law from taking its course; thereby making it moribund
from its beginning. In this context therefore, I have found the Minister’s decision to be irrational,”
he said.
The Judge observed that the two pieces of legislation (IBA and ZNBC) represented a clear and
deliberate effort at reform of the law and circumstances that previously existed, and that the
two laws were clearly and deliberately aimed at moving Government away from direct and
day-to-day control of both public and private media organisations in Zambia.
“Specifically, the law clearly creates the IBA and an independent board of directors for ZNBC,
a key public media organisation in Zambia, free from interference and not subject to the direction
of any other person or authority,” he said.
Judge Phiri, however, noted that he had not found any evidence to suggest that the Minister’s
So This Is Democracy? 2004


Media Institute of Southern Africa

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