State of the media in Southern Africa - 2003
session of Parliament. The Bill was earlier on presented to Parliament and had passed through
the crucial second reading without much difficulty on 28 November 2002. However, at the last
minute, former Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Newstead Zimba withdrew
the bill without giving reasons. Then Vice-President Enock Kavindele said the Bill had serious
national security implications in view of ‘global security concerns after the 11 September 2001
terrorist attacks in the United States.’
Both MISA-Zambia and PAZA expressed disappointment over the apparent lack of political
will to pass FOI Bill into law. This piece of legislation is critical to media freedom as it could
facilitate access to important information and events, thereby allowing citizen participation
in the democratic governance of Zambia.
Government policy remained unchanged on the privatisation of the public media, which
remained under state ownership and control. The then Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Newstead Zimba told the nation in March 2003 that government had no intention of
privatising the Zambia Daily Mail and the Times of Zambia but that those willing to offer
competition to the two dailies were free to establish their own newspapers.
The independent media in Zambia continued to operate against the backdrop of a poor
economy. The public media is heavily indebted. This is evident in inadequate and obsolete
equipment in these institutions. Media organisations are calling for the recapitalisation of the
public media with a view to eventually privatising them. Government seems to deliberately
exacerbate these economic problems in an effort to squeeze the independent press out of
business. It is still an undeclared policy for instance, for all government institutions to not
advertise in certain sections of the media.
The Media is still polarized, with state publications or those serving the interest of the ruling
MMD on one side and the severely repressed independent press on the other. The relationship between the news media and the government has continued to be hostile, and this hostility has been directed mainly at the privately owned media and specifically the Monitor newspaper. For once, The Post newspaper, which set the national agenda for zero tolerance on
corruption was enjoying lukewarm relations with Mwanawasa’s government, which is pursuing those suspected of corruption under the Chiluba administration.
Government continued to maintain that ZNBC is a national broadcaster as opposed to public
broadcaster. Government has amended the ZNBC Act of 1987 to allow the Corporation to
collect TV license fees in order to strengthen its financial base. The ZNBC has started collecting license fees with a campaign slogan that ‘when you pay it will show’ amid controversy and confusion. In October, former MMD Party National Secretary, Michael Sata, sued
the ZNBC and Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) for ‘illegally’ collecting
license fees from his electricity bill without permission. The case was thrown out. Regulatory powers have been removed from the Minister of Information and Broadcasting to the
Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) which is yet to be set up. The new board, despite
having been appointed, has not been ratified by the last sitting of parliament that ended on 28
November 2003.
Although there are major changes in the new ZNBC Act, where ZNBC is expected to operate
as a ‘truly’ public service broadcaster representing a diversity of opinions and a wider range
of programmes, there is still too much political interference and abuse by those holding
political power. Biased TV news coverage is a clear indication that ZNBC is far from fulfilling the obligations of a public service broadcaster.
So This Is Democracy? 2003


Media Institute of Southern Africa

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