World Press Freedom Day 216 celebrates the right to access information and fundamental freedoms. Every year on May 3rd UNESCO set aside the day to highlight the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world and to defend the media from attacks on their independence. It is a day that we pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
Ahead of today international media development organizations have reported that far from being free and fair, Zambia’s media is under siege, not free and in fact deplorable. Our media houses are constantly under threat from bribery, hackings and violent attacks.
Over the course of this year we have seen almost all of our press outlets face some sort of attack on its freedom.
The World Press Freedom Index, which is released annually by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), ranks 180 countries according to how journalists are allowed to do their work.
The greater the number on the score, the bigger the press freedom violations.
For 2016, Reporters Without Borders has ranked Zambia number 114 just close to Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, which is ranked number 124. Countries like Cape Verde scored admirably (32), Botswana (43) and Ghana (26).
As we head into one of the most important elections of our time we are left without a functional media association and in 2016 Zambia was the only country out of Zimbabwe, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Nkondo to be declared ‘not free’ in terms of press freedom.
How can we be expected to carry out free and fair elections when our people are starved of impartial information? The incumbent government have been attempting to stifle the voices of those who dare to oppose them, its time our media wasn’t treated as a political commodity but as an independent information source.
Free press plays a vital role in democracy, its time the PF allowed it.