UPND Hopeful that ZNBC will air HH’s interview tonight
ZNBC is a publicly funded news network that has an obligation to report the news as it is unfolding. In a democracy, the opposition party should not hope for a balanced coverage, it should be a given. A free and independent press is paramount for any democracy to survive. I have always been in favor of privatizing ZNBC. The report in the Lusaka time says UPND hopes that ZNBC broadcasts the interview without being strong-armed by the government. The Zambian Observer recently run an article with the headline ” Edgar Lungu still studying whether HH can feature on ZNBC”
The sad part about the article is not that the president of Zambia is pondering whether to feature Mr. Hakainde Hichilema on ZNBC. It is the fact that ZNBC, which is state owned and Taxpayer funded network felt the need to ask permission on who can feature on their programme. The Zambian constitution guarantees press freedom, but as one report said, ZNBC continues to line with the ruling party. According to freedom house, the journalist at ZNBC continue to self-censor themselves, this is partly because the publication is subjected to review before they are published. Other reports say that the Zambian government constantly takes legal action against independent news outlet that is critical of the government.
The Zambian National Corporation amendment act of 2010 authorized the information minister to select the ZNBC board without seeking nomination from the appointment committee. Even though the nomination has to be ratified by parliament, the board is responsible for the appointment of the head of ZNBC. I don’t think this is a good idea, the government should not dictate what information people consume. They should not even be in the business of appointing the head of ZNBC, the head should appoint the professional bodies. Having the government in charge of the media is how you get dictatorships. For example, the majority of the anti-Tutsi propaganda was transmitted through the public radio station. Hitler had his own minister of propaganda that controlled the narrative.
Having the government in charge of information is how you get collective thinking, where people think that the state does everything right. One of the reasons why democracy in western countries is so strong is, the system is framed so that no one man holds the power. In other words, it has in it a lot of checks and balances to keep the government in check. What the government does in Zambia is what Trump is doing to the media in America right now. News outlets that oppose the government are treated as enemies of the state.
Finally, the strength of a democracy is seen in how strong the opposition is, over the last few years the ruling party in Zambia has continuously attacked dissenting news outlets like MUVI TV, Zambian watchdog. If this trend continues then we will be in trouble.
Written By Paul Mukube