Zambian journalists celebrate World Press Freedom Day

Hundreds of Zambian journalists Monday joined their colleagues around the
world to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.

Journalists marched for over two kilometres from the main Post office in
downtown Lusaka on Cairo road to the Freedom Statue along the Independent
Avenue, escorted by a police band.

They carried banners some of which read: “Championing Human rights and
development through information…Viva press freedom.”

“A vibrant and independent media is an indispensable pillar of democracy.”

Chairman of the Zambia Independent Media Association (ZIMA) told the
gathering that the media did not hate the government.

“I am happy to see everybody here, its quite a good turn out, we are
certainly here in force,” the chairman said.

He added: “We want the government to understand that when we criticise we
are not doing it because we hate anybody or because we dislike them as
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe seems to think and also Zambian
President Frederick Chiluba also seems to think.”

He explained that government was being criticised because the media wanted
to see the country improve.

“We want to see good governance in this country and we think that the best
way of doing that is to highlight those abuses that continue to harass us,”
he further stated.

The chairman also launched the “So This is Democracy”? from MISA
headquarters in Windhoek which is issued every year. The book has also been
launched in the past two years.

Mr Simpson revealed that last year Zambia had the highest number of action
alerts in the whole SADC region consisting twelve countries.

He was however quick to say that in 1998 the numbers had decreased both
regionally and also from Zambia although Zambia was still leading.

He said ZIMA recorded twenty-eight alerts last year which he described as
too many.

“We would like to see this number decrease. We would like that number to
come down to zero,” he added.

The journalists were joined in by several leaders from various civic
organisations such as the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT), a local
election monitoring group, the Non-governmental Co-ordinating Committee
(NGOCC), the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and many other
organisations and individuals that support press freedom in the country.

The independent Post Newspapers said it was greatly embattled for freedom of
the press.

News editor for the publication Mukalya Nampito, addressing the gathering,
said the Post had suffered great inconveniences perpetrated by the state.

“We shall remain strong and focused in our vision…it does not help that
the government does not seem to understand what freedom of the press or
independent media entails,” she stated.

Twelve journalists from her paper (including herself) are facing espionage
charges for the story which the Post carried in March this year in which it
reported the low calibre of the Zambian defence forces in comparison to that
of neighbouring Angola.

The journalists have since been committed to the high court for summary
trial although the dates have not yet been set.

An outspoken civic leader and head of the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team
(ZIMT), a local election-monitoring group Alfred Zulu condemned the killing
of journalists in Yugoslavia recently.

“America should stop killing journalists…is this what you call democracy,”
he asked.

There were no representatives from the state-owned and government controlled
media, namely the Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail, Zambia National
Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) and the national news agency, the Zambia
News Agency (ZANA).

This article was originally published on Zambian journalists celebrate World Press Freedom Day