Calls for Renewed Commitment to Press Freedom
The Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) is greatly concerned with the continued intimidation and harassment of the media. The world over, a free press plays an important role in a democratic society, allowing the dissemination of information and a space for the exchange of opinions and ideas. Particularly in these challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments have a duty to uphold and protect the freedom of the press so that free information sharing is guaranteed. CCMG thus notes with concern the recent happenings aimed at limiting press freedom, censoring and intimidating the media. CCMG calls on government to take concrete actions to investigate and hold individuals accountable for any violations.
CCMG condemns in the strongest terms the actions of Mpika District Commissioner in instructing Mpika FM not to host a paid for programme featuring the United Party for National Development (UPND) President, on 13 May 2020, the unauthorized entry of suspected PF cadres into Muchinga Radio studios in Chinsali on 15 May 2020 to disrupt yet another paid for programme featuring UPND President via telephone, and the attack on Isoka FM on May 18 during an interview with the UPND President.
“We are concerned that these acts of intimidation represent a restriction of press freedom, which is a fundamental component of our democracy,” said Steering Committee Chair Fr. Cleophas Lungu.
As we prepare for 2021 elections, the media must remain free as part of a democratic, transparent and credible electoral process. Furthermore, as noted by the United Nations Secretary General in commemorating World Press Freedom Day earlier this month, meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic “depends on media freedom and independent reporting.” The challenges of COVID-19 should not be used to limit the freedom of press, or the exchange of ideas and opinions.
CCMG welcomes the statement by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services noting that “it is a violation of the IBA [Independent Broadcasting Authority] Act…for any person to procure other people to storm a radio station and disrupt a broadcast programme or order a broadcast station to broadcast in a certain manner.” In light of this statement, CCMG calls on government to hold the individuals responsible accountable for their actions. Law enforcement agencies to investigate the incidents in Chinsali and Isoka and ensure that the individuals involved are brought to book. CCMG also calls on government officials to refrain from using their office to intimidate the media, and those who do be disciplined according to the appropriate procedures. Further, we call upon the Independent Broadcasting Authority to play its role in providing protection to the media through existing statutes to ensure that media houses operate independently
Father Cleophas Lungu
Chairperson-CCMG Steering Committee
Overview of CCMG
The Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) is an alliance of four faith based organisations formed to help promote credible elections through non-partisan citizen monitoring. The CCMG partner organisations are: Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ); Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ); Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR); and Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), formerly the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), through Caritas Zambia. CCMG was founded ahead of the 20 January 2015 presidential by-election and has observed the 2016 general elections, electoral processes and by-elections since its founding. CCMG is a member of the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM) (https://gndem.org/) and conducts all of its observation efforts in conformity with the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations (https://gndem.org/declaration-of-global-principles/). CCMG is strictly independent and non-partisan. We support no political party or candidate