By Scoop Reporter
MANY journalists still face untold difficulties with massive pressure and threats emanating mainly from Governments that use state institutions to ‘punish’ those seen to be critical, the Free Press Initiative (FPI) Zambia has noted.
FPI Zambia founder and coordinator Joan Chirwa today told The Scoop in a statement that the growing intolerance to independent and free press by leaders around the world, with little effort to guarantee their safety and protection from political and commercial influence, is worrying.
She says in some cases, media institutions are being closed for reasons that only require dialogue, citing the recent closure of Prime TV and The Post newspaper in 2016 as some of the perfect examples of intolerance by the powers that be towards media houses.
“This can be said of last month’s closure of private television station, Prime TV, and The Post some four years ago. We deeply sympathise with our colleagues at Prime TV, the latest victims of the Government’s heavy-handedness.
“Such injustices to press freedom make it very difficult for us to celebrate this day; we instead grieve for our profession,” Ms. Chirwa said.
She says in worst scenarios, reporters have been killed during their line of duty with six journalists having been killed in Iraq, Paraguay, Somalia, and Syria) in the first quarter of 2020, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“Here in Zambia, in August, 2019, our colleague, Humphrey Nkonde, went missing and was later found buried in a shallow grave.
“The cause of his death remains unclear to this day as the police have kept secret the post-mortem results. Whether or not his death was a result of his job is something that is yet to be proved. For now, we can only remind the police that we have not forgotten about Humphrey,” she says.
She has also noted that the journalism profession today faces new challenges at a time the world needs it the most over the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak, a crisis that has thrown the entire world into disarray as everyone has turned to credible media for accurate, verified, and life-saving information.
She notes that many sacrifices have been made by the media in Zambia during this time in trying to fulfil their role, yet revenues have plummeted.
“This situation has thrown a heavy burden on many media houses as they wade through this rough patch while keeping their operations going.
“Our hope as FPI is that the truly independent media that relies only on its business of selling news and not hand-outs from political sponsors will survive this period and continue to play its huge role of giving citizens credible information,” she said.
She says FPI is of the firm view that a genuinely independent press in Zambia and the rest of the world needs support now more than ever before for society’s benefit for them to practice without fear.
“We need press freedom in reality, not on paper. Our counsel to fellow journalists, media heads, and owners is that they must pay attention to the basics in journalism that do not promote or favour one view against the other,” she said.