The following press release was circulated by the Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf):
Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) congratulates Mr. Chishimba Kambwili for being appointed as Zambia’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services by President Edgar Lungu.
We encourage Minister Kambwili to prioritise addressing the various stumbling blocks to the development of the media sector in Zambia. PSAf believes only a free, independent and pluralistic media can provide information and news that can promote development and democracy.
Hon. Kambwili is coming to the media sector at a time when the media is in dire need of serious legal and policy reforms to take care of the many sociological, economic and technological challenges that affect the way the media performs. Examples of such challenges include the convergence of information and communication technology (ICTs) which allows for the TV, Radio and Newspaper news items to be transmitted via different media through the internet and for citizens to access their information through different forms of media through their mobile telephony. Before the end of the year 2015 all broadcast media will need to comply with the international digital migration regulations.
In terms of the legal environment, the Hon. Minister has to deal with the dichotomy of having an Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) set up by parliament which is supposed to regulate an independent national broadcaster like the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) which is also regulated by an Act of Parliament. These two Acts require harmonization.
The citizens have also been waiting for many years for the enactment of the Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. The FOI legislation will allow citizens to access vital information necessary for them to make informed decisions on matters of their lives, businesses and communities, and to actively participate in development and governance processes.
The Zambian media also includes privately run community media who are now servicing the rural poor and marginalized people in every province by providing news items and information in the local language of those communities. However these community media are themselves struggling to survive since they provide their services almost free of charge as the radio license law does not allow them to make money like commercial radio and TV do. These community media have also suffered harassment and instigated arrests from political cadres and district administrators for doing their work.
PSAf hopes the minister will use his energy to push for the improvement of the Zambian media environment and to ensure that the Zambian journalist, especially the community radio, is supported to excel in their work of informing and educating the citizens, especially those poor and marginalized that are too poor to hire or seek for information through their own private media.
PSAf believes that a strong media and favourable information and communication environment is critical for Zambia’s development and prosperity.
Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf)