COF calls for the reopening of Prime TV, as nation celebrates Press Freedom Day

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Chapter One Foundation (COF) joins Zambia and the world to commemorate Press Freedom Day, with calls for the reopening of Prime TV.

The Foundation seeks to promote and protect human rights, human rights defenders, constitutionalism, social justice and the rule of law in Zambia.

“Our aim is to promote and protect the Constitution and the rights included in it and by so doing, free the space for Zambians to fully participate in the democratic governance of the country. We recognize that press freedom plays an essential role in empowering individuals, strengthening economies, and fuelling true democracy throughout the world,” says the Foundation.

World Press Freedom Day is celebrated annually on the 3rd of May as an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; Defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

This year’s theme is: ‘Safety of Journalists – Press freedom and media capture’. Upon announcing the theme, UNESCO stated the following:

“Attacks against journalists occur all over the world, significantly hampering freedom of expression and press freedom. Only when journalists can report safely, without fear of retaliation for critical reporting or other threats to their safety in the execution of their job, can press freedom be achieved,” adds COF.

Freedom of the press is recognised as being key to transparency and good governance, in markets, business and giving citizens the tools to make well-informed decisions.

The media also plays vital role in exposing wrongdoing, inspire reforms, and tell true and remarkable stories that move and inspire.

Numerous international and regional instruments have been passed to protect the freedom and safety of the press in recognition of their important role to society.

Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Commission Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, both state that attacks on journalists affect the free flow of information to the public and they urge Countries to put laws in place to protect journalists from harm.

In Zambia Article 20 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press.

Though freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed, it is restricted in practice. International human rights organisations, such as Freedom House and Reporters without Borders, rank the Zambian press as partly free.

They highlight the fact that journalists and news outlets are subject to arbitrary closure by authorities, risk arrests for defaming the president and the circulation of news intended to cause fear and alarm the public; frivolous lawsuits, and harassment by the government and political party supporters, increasing self-censorship by media outlets.

Many independent news agencies face other threats to their press freedom, such as harassment, as provisions contained in legislations such as the penal code are selectively applied to journalists who continuously criticize the actions of the State.

“Furthermore, the increase in online monitoring and interruptions by the state has further affected not only the freedom of press but also the freedom of expression of all citizens; with the government enacting policies restricting online expression pertaining to government activities. It is important for the Zambian government to revise legislation that limits not only circulation of information but also digital rights in order to combat the shrinking civic space in the Country and promote the full participation of all Zambians in the democratic governance of the State,” notes the Foundation.

“We at Chapter One Foundation cannot mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day without taking particular note of the closure of the independent television station, Prime Television by the authorities.

“This is another sign of creeping authoritarianism and the shrinking of the civic space in Zambia. Allowing an independent media allows everyone including the government access to information and to the truth.

“In a democracy such as ours the marketplace of ideas should be allowed to thrive so that our citizens have access to the best and most useful ideas.

“That cannot happen where information providers and truth seekers are gagged. As key drivers of civic participation, journalists and media outlets should not only be able to freely disseminate information to the public, they should be free to disseminate information “without fear of retaliation for critical reporting or other threats to their safety in the execution of their job,” as only then will there be true freedom of the press in Zambia,” adds the Foundation.

Chapter One Foundation called on the government to re-open Prime Television. “We further urge the government to create a conducive environment for journalists to do their work unimpeded by enacting legislation that fosters access to information, allows for freedom of expression, protects digital rights and engages various stakeholders on the need to review legislation that impact the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression in Zambia, such as the Penal Code,” notes Chapter One.

The Foundation further urges the government not to enact legislation that will restrict the civic space and affect the freedom of journalists and other Zambian citizens, such as the cyber-crimes and security legislation.

“We believe that revisions of the crucial restrictive legislations will not only protect journalists and promote the freedom of press and expression in Zambia, it will also improve civic participation in the country and strengthen our democracy,” adds the Foundation.

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31