ZAMEC Launch Postponed again to pave way for dialogue with government

Media Liaison Committee
Press Statement
For Immediate Release
19th August 2010
Update on the launch of Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC)

We have called this briefing to update the media and the nation at large on the new developments that have taken place since we announced last week that the launch of the Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC) would take place on Thursday, 26th August 2010.


This date was set after the police had cleared the fingerprints of the applicants that sought to register the organization as a professional non-governmental organization under the Societies Act. The nomination process for members of the ZAMEC National Governing Council has reached advanced stages and we shall soon announce the names of nominees who shall be ratified at the inaugural ZAMEC General Meeting soon after the launch.

Today, we wish to announce that the launch has been moved to another date to be announced in due course because of two developments that have emerged in the last one week since we made the earlier announcement of the launch.

The first is that the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, Lt. Gen. Ronnie Shikapwasha, requested the Media Liaison Committee to dialogue further with him on ZAMEC because in his view, the discussions had not been exhausted. The second issue is that the Society for Senior Zambian Journalists (SSZJ) has proposed an indaba where they have asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services and the MLC discuss the apparent deadlock on media regulation in the country.

As a group driven by consensus right from the start of the present debate on self-regulation, we decided to yet again put off the launch of ZAMEC to allow for the widest possible alternative opinions to be fully expressed on the matter before we finally launch the new body.

To the best of our abilities and expertise within the MLC and with broad consultation, we feel we have come up with a sustainable self-regulation mechanism that must be given a chance to succeed or fail before anyone can pass judgment in favour or against it. The resolution at the May 2 national conference was that the body be launched and its performance judged after an interim period of 18 months.

This notwithstanding, we have decided that it is worthwhile to listen to the new concerns of the Minister and to afford a chance to the SSZJ to try their initiative so that we can examine the options they will put forward at the proposed indaba. The SSZJ have informed us that they will bring eminent persons from non-media Civil Society organizations to chair the proceedings, whilst they will assume the role of facilitator.

On our part, having arrived at the current broad consensus, ZAMEC, we shall present the ZAMEC Constitution and Code of Ethics and take the indaba through the processes we have undergone since November 2008, when we embarked on the current journey to create a sustainable, self-regulatory mechanism.

The new initiative by SSZJ, will hopefully enrich the process further and afford us an opportunity to learn from the alternative proposals that other stakeholders might have. The call for dialogue from the Minister will hopefully result in tangible progress and consensus on this matter.

Background

The on-going debate on media self-regulation began in earnest in late 2008 out of a joint initiative among media associations. At the 2009 World Press Freedom Day festivities, media associations agreed to partner with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in developing an all-embracing media self-regulatory mechanism.

Several meetings have been held over the past one year at which all stakeholders agreed on the fundamentals of a self regulatory mechanism. The constitution and code of conduct have since been agreed by the general membership of the media associations, trade unions in the media industry and media houses themselves, in their individual capacity.

Between May 3 and November 25, 2009, media groups managed to secure unprecedented consensus to bring on board all players into the self-regulatory mechanism.

From February 3-6, 2010, the media groups called a retreat at Fringilla Farm Lodge in Chisamba and came out with a document called the Fringilla Consensus, the most comprehensive self-regulatory mechanism in the history of the country, having been reached by representatives from all media houses (state newspapers, state broadcasters, private print and electronic media, community media, training institutions and interested civil society groups). The media groups then proceeded with the final phase of launching the Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC) as the Fringilla meeting resolved. They held a national stakeholders conference at Pamodzi on April 12 and 13 to finalize the constitution for the final launch on May 3.

At a consultative meeting held at MISA-Zambia offices on 17th August, 2010, the MLC also reviewed its operations and reaffirmed the unity of purpose and the groups unanimity on the question of self-regulation of the media as the only way consistent with the values of free expression and independence of the media.

As the MLC we wish to reiterate our unreserved commitment to non-statutory, self-regulation of the media and appeal to the government to support our noble efforts to establish an effective media self-regulatory body which will be the pride of all Zambians. As earlier stated, we remain open to genuine and fruitful dialogue with all stakeholders.

Thank you.

Joseph Mkandawire

CHAIRPERSON – MLC

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