Sunday, May 3, 2020.
Today Zambia joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), whose theme is ‘Journalism Without Fear or Favour.’ Our party, the UPND, joins Zambia and the rest of world in celebrating this great day.
This day was set aside for the global community to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate its achievement and defend the media from attacks on their independence. We pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives, jobs and even sent to jail in exercise of their profession and pursuit of truth against corrupt and dictatorial regimes.
This year’s WPFD takes place at a time when the media are once again in the history of mankind called upon to take up arms against another major pandemic outbreak, Covid-19.
Journalists are in the front line of fighting Covid-19 and face similar risks and resource challenges as the other essential workers on the battlefront against the pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has added more pressure on the already over-stretched media. The media are still expected to tackle traditional crises of poverty, like HIV and AIDS, climate and corruption and rule of law.
To overcome these crises, genuine press freedom and “Journalism Without Fear or Favour” are indispensable.
With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic the media are needed than ever before. Our people need truthful and timely information and government needs to be held accountable over the resources being mopped up to fight the pandemic. This year’s WPFD theme is therefore spot-on for the moment. Fearless journalism is needed in moments like this when irresponsible governments can take advantage of the lockdown situations to impose new restrictions on individual and media freedoms and liberties.
For us in Zambia, WPFD is being held against a backdrop of unprecedented muzzling of the media by the Patriotic Front and total departure from the tenets of press freedom and democracy, which has never been seen before in this country. We have witnessed forced closures and intimidation of independent and critical media houses. The grand plan is to silence the voices of the people against the corruption and theft of public resources by the PF regime.
To the contrary, the UPND views on free press is vital for both development and democracy.
We recognize that all forms of human and developmental processes rely on free flow of information.
A free press is the lifeblood and soul of good governance and of capable, responsive and accountable states.
A UPND in government will be a champion of free, accountable and well capitalised press. We call on citizens to stand tall with us in getting our country back from the enemies of a free press. Only the UPND in government will guarantee full rights and freedoms of the media and you the citizens as enshrined in our constitution.
Together we can take this country to the ‘Promised Land’ for ourselves and our descendants.
Happy World Press Freedom Day. God Bless Our Republic.