Editor's Comment

Media Development policy progressive

THE launch of the first-ever Media Development Policy, in Zambia’s history, which sets out Government’s vision and mission to promote freedom of expression by guaranteeing press freedom, is progressive and a critical step towards a vibrant media.
The launch of the policy is also evidence that Government is committed to creating an enabling environment for the media to thrive.
The media, as the fourth estate, plays a critical role of informing, educating and entertaining the public.
It is practically impossible for any government to have meaningful engagement with its citizens in the absence of a vibrant media. Furthermore, citizens can only contribute to the development of the country if they are well informed.
The policy, which is anchored on four main pillars, namely media freedom, media pluralism, media independence and safety of journalists, seeks to achieve the internationally agreed media development indicators.
These are: freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity of the media, professional and infrastructural capacity building and support institutions that underpin freedom of expression and media as a platform for democratic discourse.
It is commendable that Government is committed to deepening and widening public access to information by promoting growth of a vibrant, plural and diverse media landscape in the country.
Through the policy, Government further intends to promote professional standards in the media industry by encouraging media self-regulation as the main vehicle to the realisation of a free, independent and professional media.
It is also good that the policy further places a high premium on the physical, psychological and safety of journalists, in accordance with international standards laid down in the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists.
The policy could not have come at a better time than now, given the numerous threats journalists go through during the course of duty.
It is in public domain that many journalists have been victims of violence at the hands of political cadres. Journalists have also been exposed to danger while covering riots and other such events.
The policy will help to provide a safer environment in which journalists can execute their duties freely.
At a time that there have been concerns of falling journalism standards, it is good that the policy also seeks to address the issue of capacity building for journalists and industry players through infrastructure development.
For the media to effectively carry out its mandate to contribute to a well-informed citizenry, journalists must have the right skills.  Needless to say there is also need for adequate tools and infrastructure. It is elating that the policy addresses this issue under one of its pillars.
For the media industry to thrive, there is need for pluralism and diversity. The policy will no doubt help level the playing field for media players. So far, Government has done well in opening up the media space for different players. Today the country boasts of over 100 radio stations. The policy, will therefore, build on these gains.
As rightly noted by Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Dora Siliya, the policy certainly sets a good platform for the media to grow and contribute to not only having an informed citizenry but also create jobs and wealth.
In as much as journalism is a noble profession, if the media is to continue carrying out its mandate, it needs to be financially sound. This calls for the media to operate as a business. In doing so, the media will not only ensure its sustenance, but will also contribute to national economic growth through job and wealth creation.
It is worth noting that alongside the Media Development Policy, Government has also launched the Government Communication Policy.
This is premised on Government’s commitment to democratic governance that promotes proactive, coordinated and consistent dissemination of information to the public.
The Communication Policy is anchored on principles such as the right to information, transparency, accountability, integrity and inclusivity.
The policy further provides a framework for the much awaited Access to Information legislation and defines the roles of different participants in Government-related communication to ensure effective and coherent communication.
To prevent the policy from gathering dust on the shelves, Government already has a strategy in place for implementation.
With such progressive and media friendly policies in place, it is hoped that the media-industry will seize the opportunity to set itself for success.
The ball is in the hands of the media players to take advantage of the newly launched policies to transform the industry into a vibrant one.

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