Information and Media Permanent Secretary Thabo Kawana has called for concerted efforts between Government and Civil Society Organisations in sensitising the public on the contents of the Access To Information Law.
Mr. Kawana said even though his ministry has initiated the process of sensitising public office bearers on their role in the successful implementation of the law, there is urgent need for the public to appreciate the objectives of the law.
Speaking when USAID Open Spaces Project Chief of Party Teldah Mawarire led a delegation from internews Network in paying a courtesy call on him at his office in Lusaka today, Mr. Kawana stressed that President Hakainde Hichilema has been clear on the need to run an open and
transparent Government that is accountable to the people.
The Permanent Secretary said now that the law is in place, the onus is on public officers to do the right thing and for citizens to effectively provide checks and balances to their government.
He said Government through the Ministry of Information and Media has ensured that the law is enacted in good faith as opposed to others who talked about it for many years, without implementing it, just to win the support of cooperating partners.
“The President has told all of us that he has nothing to hide and that our citizens have the right to know how government is using their resources,” said Mr. Kawana.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kawana has reiterated his call to the media to remain professional in the discharge of their duties.
He said while Government maintains its position that it will not close any media house in the country, there was need for media houses including radio and television stations to strictly adhere to the provisions of the law and the terms and conditions of their licences.
He said his Ministry has a responsibility to ensure the growth of a free, professional and responsible media industry.
The Permanent Secretary appealed to internews and other media bodies in the country to heightening discussions on the need for journalists and media houses to adhere to their professional ethics.
He commended Internews and its partners for prioritizing capacity building for community media houses the majority of which are manned by volunteers with no media background.
Mr. Kawana said such training is critical in curbing misinformation because radio is regarded as a source of accurate information.
And USAID Open Spaces Project Chief of Party Teldah Mawarire who was accompanied by USAID Civil Society and Media Specialist Charlene Bangwe and Internews Programs Manager Meck Phiri,
commended Government for the enactment of the ATI law.
Ms. Mawarire said her organization will continue working with the Ministry of Information and Media and other government agencies in the implementation process of the law.
She pledged her organisation’s support and collaboration in sensitizing the public and public office bearers on the Access to Information Law and its implications.
Ms. Mawarire said the good collaborating her organization has continued to enjoy with the Ministry of Information and Media demonstrates the open-door policy Government has had when it comes to
working with the civil society.
“We are glad that you have this open-door policy which has seen you providing guidance to us as we implement media programmes,’’ she said.
Ms. Mawarire further informed the Permanent Secretary thatInternews was currently participating in the consultative processes of reviewing and replacing of the IBA and ZNBC Acts and expressed optimism of a positive outcome.
She also indicated her organisation’s willingness to support the Ministry in reviewing the Media Development Policy.
Among other activities, Ms Mawarire disclosed that the Open Spaces project was supporting 19 community radio stations in six provinces where it is building capacity among journalists so they are well equipped in terms of professionalism and observance of media ethics.