Zambian Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Chishimba Kambwili said although the country’s public media outlets had been authorised to cover opposition party rallies, they had been instructed to censor out “nonsense” and “alarming statements” to ensure that the public get the “correct” information.
Addressing a campaign rally of the governing Patriotic Front party in the Luanshya district of the Copperbelt Province on Wednesday, Kambwili criticised opposition parties, churches, media and civil rights organisations who complained of public media coverage being biased in favour of President Edgar Lungu and his PF party.
He said opposition parties were adequately and fairly covered in various articles and programmes aired and published on the government-owned print and electronic media. However, he said all
public media outlets had been instructed to thoroughly censor their coverage of the opposition parties.
“What we have told the heads of public media is that while they should operate independently, but they should analyse the information they channel out to the public. Everyone is covered in the public media. When you open the papers, you always find a story about the (political) opposition, so what more do they want?
“We have given the public media power to cover anyone regardless of what party they belong to, but what is important is that those in the public media must be able to differentiate sense from nonsense as they decide on what stories to publish. Some political leaders issue alarming statements, and I don’t think it is in the interest of Zambia for public media to carry alarming statements that have no justification,” Kambwili said.
The Zambian public media, led by the Zambia Daily Mail and the Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), have been criticised for alleged biased coverage which favoured the ruling party throughout the campaign season.
Meanwhile, Fourth Revolution Party president Eric Chanda said President Lungu should use his powers and declare a state of emergency if he felt the country was under threat, rather than use threats to intimidate opposition parties ahead of the elections next week.
Addressing a campaign rally in Mufulira on August 1, Lungu threatened to transform from a democrat to a “draconian” president to protect peace if the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) went ahead with plans to protest the election outcome on allegations that the elections had already been rigged in his favour.
However, Chanda suggested that instead of threatening to turn draconian, Lungu could protect peace by declaring a State of Emergency two days before the polls and maintain it until the results were announced and agreed to by all parties and candidates.
In a press statement, the UPND said the threat was mischievous and proved that Lungu lacked understanding of the meaning of democracy.
“The PF presidential candidate does not understand democracy. Zambia’s democracy is under threat because of having Lungu as a president. How can the president be ready to kill democracy to protect peace? This shows Lungu’s failure to understand the meaning of democracy.
“As UPND, we take this threat as a mischievous act and an insult to his own intelligence. We also warn him not to make careless statements because we shall always defend democracy using our rights as enshrined within the supreme law of Zambia. Lungu’s fear of losing power next week should not lead him into putting Zambia on a political fire,” the party said.
Eight political parties will field presidential, parliamentary, local council and mayoral candidates against Lungu and his governing PF party.
– African News Agency (ANA)