On 10 March 2000, the State House barred the private media from covering a meeting between President Frederick Chiluba and his Malawian counterpart, Bakili Muluzi.
According to a reporter from the “National Mirror” newspaper, Juliet Kaira, reporters’ names were submitted early that morning for coverage of the talks and that evening’s fundraising dinner. Later that morning, Zambia Information Services (ZIS) telephoned the “National Mirror”, instructing the newspaper’s journalists not to attend the talks because there was limited space for the media.
News editors David Kumwenda of Radio Phoenix, Arthur Simuchoba of “The Monitor” newspaper and Joe Kaunda of “The Post” newspaper told the Zambia Independent Media Association (ZIMA) that their staff also received calls from ZIS informing them not to come to the event.
According to ZIMA, the state-owned media reporters from the “Times of Zambia”, “Zambia Daily Mail”, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), ZIS and Zambia News Agency (ZANA) had seats reserved for them. Reporters from the independent media who were barred from the fundraising dinner were later told they could enter during the speeches.
The acting press officer of ZIS, Isabel Muleya, told ZIMA on 10 March that there was a mix up at State House over the coverage of both events. She said that “First the reporters submitted their names for coverage, but there was a change of programme from the press assistant’s secretary directing ZIS to inform the independent media and foreign correspondents that they were not allowed at State House.”
ZIMA chairman David Simpson condemned the barring of journalists from the private media from covering a public event. “Government is continually calling for more favourable coverage in the independent media. How does it expect to get favourable coverage if it continues to obstruct media workers who are trying to fully cover important national events?” he asked.
“They preach that media workers should come together as one group, and then they discriminate against the independent media. This is inconsistent, unfair and undemocratic,” he added.
This article was originally published on Journalists barred from presidential meeting