What was more astonishing at this national Indaba was the omission of the final resolutions on
media reforms, which again attracted sharp criticism from media associations. MISA-Zambia
and PAZA both accused government of trivialising the importance of press freedom. Despite
having had a committee sitting at this national Indaba to look at media legal reforms and other
concerns by the media, nothing concerning the media was mentioned in the final resolutions.
In 2003, President Mwanawasa appointed a Constitution Review Commission (CRC) representing broad-based sections of society, including media institutions. Despite the inclusion of media
institutions, the Commission’s 24 terms of reference made no mention of press freedom.
The year ended without the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill being passed into law except
for the assurance by government on December 30, 2003 that it would be tabled in the next
So This Is Democracy? 2003


Media Institute of Southern Africa


Another setback to Mwanawasa’s declaration ocurred on 18 October 2003, when journalists
from both private and state-owned media outlets were barred from reporting on the deliberations of various committees at a government-organised Indaba that took place in Lusaka. The
journalists, who were duly accredited to cover the four-day meeting, were told that, in order to
avoid ‘intimidating’ the delegates, they would not be allowed to cover the deliberations of the
12 committees formed at the convention to deliberate and make recommendations on multisectoral issues. This decision to bar media coverage of the Indaba was only rescinded after
widespread protests from various media organisations. The Media Institute of Southern Africa
(MISA)-Zambia Chairperson Kellys Kaunda said the convention was discussing matters of
public interest which were not secret and the press needed to be allowed to cover all the deliberations. His counterpart Andrew Sakala, the Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) president,
said his organisation was disappointed with the decision of the organisers.


President Levy Mwanawasa, on closing the sixth National Convention (Indaba) on October
20, 2003 called on the public media to discontinue flattering his New Deal Administration and
appealed for constructive criticism and objective reporting. He also assured the public media
heads of job security even if they criticised the New Deal Administration. A few weeks after
these pronouncements, in unexplained circumstances, the government owned and controlled
Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) TV banned a live programme that was
reviewing the front pages of all national daily newspapers on the Kwacha Good Morning
Zambia programme presented by two independent journalists, Edem Djokotoe and Anthony
Mukwita. The programme was perceived as being critical to government. The banning clearly
contradicted Mwanawasa’s pronouncements that constructive criticism and objective reporting from the public media was healthy and welcome.



he political openness and legal reforms heralding a more independent media, expected
with the coming into power of Levy Mwanawasa, State Counsel, have not materialised.
Mwanawasa’s New Deal Administration of ‘laws and not men’ has largely maintained
the status quo on the media front and laws against the media are still intact. The promise to
have them repealed has continued with no action taken so far. Threats, harassments and interference continued to be the order of the day in Zambia for this period.


by Herbert Macha
Herbert Macha is a lecturer in journalism at Evelyn Hone College and author of a book called
“Introduction to Media Law and Ethics for Journalists”.





State of the media in Southern Africa - 2003

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