Editor's Comment

Freedom of expression conditional

WITH the assured freedom of expression by the new dawn administration of President Hakainde Hichilema, it is expected that some people will go overboard in their comments. This must be guarded against because one person’s freedom ends where another’s begins. President Hichilema has promised citizens full enjoyment of their civil liberties and freedom of expression but he did not say people should injure each other’s reputations. While it is imperative for citizens to have freedom of expression, it must be understood that the right to freedom of expression comes with responsibility. Therefore, Zambians must maintain civility even as they seek to air their views on national issues. Respect for other people’s human rights should be the basis for constructive criticism or indeed offering checks and balances to the new administration. Bad language against others in the name of freedom of expression will only perpetrate disharmony in the nation. The country is trying to heal from political violence as a result of name-calling and character assassination during political campaigns in the run-up to the August general elections. In this connection, we appeal to citizens to take heed of chief Government spokesperson Chushi Kasanda’s statement that freedom of expression should be exercised without injuring other people’s reputation. The Minister of Information and Media is right because government has already shown political will to respect people’s human rights, which include freedom of expression. President Hichilema’s directive to the Ministry of Information and Media to ensure that the Access to Information Bill is urgently enacted into law is testimony that the new dawn administration is serious about giving citizens the right to know and comment on issues affecting them. But careless talk and irresponsible comments in public will work against the very freedom people desire to have in the country. Citizens should avoid abusing the freedom of expression because such behaviour has the potential of destroying the moral fibre of the nation. Political leaders should endeavour to be civil in their language because young people, as demonstrated in the August 12 general elections, look up to them as role models. Anything short of responsibility in our pursuit of freedom of expression will promote hate speech, which has always threatened unity and peace in the country. The new-found freedom of expression should provide the nation some respite from the distress caused by certain injustices during the previous regime. We also urge young people aspiring to be politicians to exercise restraint as they exercise their right to freedom of expression because politics is not about insults and disrespect for other people’s human rights. As much as the voices of young people need to be heard, there is also need for them to understand that respect for others, especially elders in political circles, is important. Every citizen should give responsible criticism a chance to ensure that freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the President, is not abused. We must ensure that every human right is anchored on the nation’s values that promote peace and unity, and not hate speech. It is also the responsibility of the Church to continue speaking against hate speech as society embraces freedom of expression. This right will be meaningless if people use it to harm the reputations of others in society. Citizens should remember that even in the midst of freedom of expression, the law on defamation is at play. We hope everyone will respect the political will on the right to freedom of expression and act responsibly.

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