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Zambia: Media Liaison Committee postpone ZAMEC launch
The Media Liaison Committee (MLC) has postponed the launch of the recently created Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC) on 3 May 2010 as earlier planned.

According to a report by The Post on 27 April 2010, MLC spokesperson Amos Chanda stated that the date for the launch would be announced after the World Press Freedom Day commemorations next week.

"At its meeting held at the Press Association of Zambia Secretariat on 27 April 2010, the MLC resolved that in the interest of the spirit of consensus that drives the current process that resulted in the formation of an all-inclusive ZAMEC, it is necessary to give Government an opportunity to reflect on the decisions taken at National Media Conference at Pamodzi Hotel on 13 April 2010," Chanda stated. "Our decision comes in the light of Government’s concerns on the Fringilla Consensus report and therefore we have allowed them time to consider the key amendments that were effected to the report at the Pazmodzi meeting."

Chanda stated that it was regrettable that minister of information Ronnie Shikapwasha decided to base government’s position on a draft document, which in fact he had publicly endorsed earlier.

"we still remain open to an honest discussion towards the perfection of the self-regulatory mechanism. It has to be made clear that this window we have opened is only as far as discussion (of) self-regulation is concerned not any form of statutory regulation as suggested by the Minister," he stated.

However, Chanda stated that the position on the launch of ZAMEC would be subjected to approval by the stakeholders’ conference on 2 May 2010 which mandated the MLC to deal with the matter following Shikapwasha’s new position.

Chanda stated that as regards paragraphs six and seven of the minister’s letter of 13 April 2010 alleging that ZAMEC was deemed to be superior to the laws of the country, the MLC explained that the clause in the constitutions that requires parties to waive their rights to go to court was only meant to entrench a culture of mutual conflict resolution that would be faster than the courts.

He stated that the clause was not meant to prevent anyone from seeking redress of the courts if that was the route they so desired.

"The clause does not in any way place ZAMEC above any law of this country. The provision is a global standard in any progressive self-regulation process including in the Kenyan model which the government prefers the waiver only serves to prevent litigious individuals from wasting both the council and courts time by congesting both processes with the same case," Chanda stated.

He stated that the Kenyan Media Act which Government favoured had raised so much controversy that both the government and media considered it an experiment yet to show any tangible signs of success.

"The majority of media professionals and civil society regard it as one of the lowest points of the Kenyan democratic enterprise since the country’s return to plural politics in the 1990s," stated Chanda.

Background

The MLC which is a consortium of media associations including MISA-Zambia have been working on the process of establishing a non-statutory self regulatory framework which was to lead to the establishment of an all-inclusive Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC) by 3 May 2010.

However the Zambian government have denied the framework, stating that it falls short of a genuine self regulatory framework and would not be able to achieve effective self regulation of the media in the country. In a letter dated 13 April, 2010 and addressed to Media Liaison Committee (MLC) chairperson Henry Kabwe, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Ronnie Shikapwasha said that the proposed voluntary media self regulation mechanism [christened Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC)] will be a reincarnation of the moribund Media Ethics Council of Zambia (MECOZ) and would be toothless and unenforceable.

MISA has since expressed deep concern at the Zambian Government attempt to impose statutory regulation on the media and has called on the Zambian media to unite in rejecting the move. In a statement issued on 26 April 2010, MISA Regional Director, Kaitira Kandjii said government’s insistence on a statutory media self-regulation mechanism is inappropriate, unnecessary, and aimed at nothing but controlling the media.

Source: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)


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