15 December 2010

Zambia: Government regulation of media ethics limits free press

In a recent mission to Zambia, the International Press Institute (IPI) called on the government to refrain from trying to control the press and urged the media to monitor its own ethical breaches. IPI delegates met with journalists from most of Lusaka's major media houses, representatives from journalists' organisations and unions, and representatives from the U.S. embassy and the United Nations.

The "Report on Press Freedom and Media Regulation in Zambia" commented that it is not the place of government to monitor journalistic ethics, but added that journalists are not above the law. The state recently called for the media to be regulated by an independent body but withdrew support once it learned that membership on the new council would be voluntary. IPI urged the government to have direct conversations with the media and find common ground, "particularly since government called for the media to regulate itself and the media are making a serious and concerted effort to do so."

The report also explains that the government owns and exerts political control over the public media, which employ most journalists in the country. The only privately owned daily, "The Post", has the highest circulation of any newspaper in the country. "The Post" has been regularly targeted for its critical coverage of government policy; its reporters have received death threats and have been singled out for prosecution by officials. There are a number of community radio stations throughout the country but their survival depends on sponsored issue-specific programming.

To read the full mission report, please see:
Report on press freedom and media regulation in Zambia

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