Friday, March 12, 2010

People have right to defend themselves through the media, says Kunda

People have right to defend themselves through the media, says Kunda
By Ernest Chanda
Fri 12 Mar. 2010, 08:20 CAT

VICE-PRESIDENT George Kunda has said Frederick Chiluba has been a subject of ridicule since 2001.

Supporting the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) amendment bill, which came up for second reading in Parliament, Vice-President Kunda said people had a right to defend themselves through the media once they were attacked.

Vice-President Kunda said it was necessary for those attacking people to know that those they attacked were also bound to react through the same media.
“Some of us in government have been the subject of abuse for a long time. We have been insulted relentlessly, sometimes for three years. Lies everyday, vulgar language or fabrications,” Vice-President Kunda said. “When some of us on this side react, maybe once, you will find people crying continuously.

For example, one of the former presidents has been the subject of abuse since 2001. He just reacted once and people were complaining. You see this is a time we must also react continuously, either through public media or private media. Some of the people crying have used vulgar language before.

Through the state or private media, we are entitled to defend ourselves. We will just say something and everybody will be crying. They have become disoriented just because we've reacted; just a single dose of their own medicine.”

The bill seeks to, among other things, remove the Appointments Committee for ZNBC board, provide for the collection of television levy by various agents such as television receivers and tuner retailers on behalf of ZNBC, and empower the Minister of Information to exempt some persons and organisations from paying television levy.

Vice-President Kunda said it was important to remove unnecessary bureaucracies and restore power to the Minister of Information.

He said the Appointments Committee as contained in the current ZNBC Act was notorious and meant to favour people from NGOs.

“We must remove the Appointments Committee and restore power to the minister to appoint boards. He must enjoy that power to constitute boards. As for those saying the bill has not been operationalised, it is not true because the bill has already been operationalised.

There was an Appointments Committee that was provided. That committee was of one view and notorious,” Vice -President Kunda debated as deputy chairperson of committees Mkhondo Lungu cautioned him against using unparliamentary language. “It was composed of NGO Non-Governmental Organisation leaders with alliances with certain political parties; they were partisan.

And they were about to recommend their friends who had the same view. As a result we went to the courts, the court guided us that it's the minister who should appoint board members. So why create bureaucracies even on the ZNBC board, which has been operating professionally. We want to restore powers of the minister to appoint boards.”

Opposing the bill earlier, chairperson of the parliamentary committee on information and broadcasting, Mwansa Kapeya, said the 2002 ZNBC Act had not been operationalised fully.

“… I would like to indicate from the outset that your committee has a lot of reservations on certain aspects of the bill and do not, therefore, support it in its entirety. As the House must be aware, the Act that this bill is seeking to amend, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation Amendment Act No. 20 of 2002, has not been operationalised, now almost eight years since its enactment and what we have seen is the lifting of one aspect of the Act, the television licence fees, now to be called a levy, being implemented,” Kapeya said.

“First things should be done first. What the government should have done is to operationalise the law that was meant to make ZNBC a truly public broadcaster before asking the public to support its operations through tax or levy. As it is, out of the whole law, only one aspect of it, the television levy has been operationalised and this is a source of worry for most Zambians.”

Kapeya said the committee further viewed that ZNBC had provided unfair competition to other television stations through its engagement in commercial advertising.

“While agreeing that the national broadcaster should be sustained by funds from the government through taxes, your committee notes that the public broadcaster is also involved in commercial advertising, thereby taking the market from private broadcasters who do not receive any help from government.

Your committee therefore recommend that ZNBC be restricted in its involvement in commercial advertising, as is the practice in countries like the UK where the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) receives huge funding from levies and is, therefore, only allowed to advertise on a limited and specified scale,” said Kapeya.

Roan member of parliament Chishimba Kambwili argued that ZNBC did not provide balanced coverage as a public broadcaster.

“ZNBC is very imbalanced in as far as broadcasting is concerned. Every time you tune to their channel, you can even predict the sequence of people to appear on the news. You can tell that it's President Rupiah Banda, the Vice-President, ministers, and now street adults like Charles Chimumbwa, Mumbi Edward,” Kambwili said as he was cautioned against mentioning people who could not defend themselves. “No body speaking against government will be aired on ZNBC TV.

I have personally gone there to express my views on several national issues and such views have not been aired. Even reporters will tell you that this will not be aired because there is a committee, which sits at 16:00 hours to gauge the news, and it includes people from the Office of the President.

Governments come and go, and tomorrow you will be in the opposition and the same law will visit you.”
Mazabuka Central member of parliament Gary Nkombo complained that ZNBC has been a tool of abuse by the government to attack opposition politicians.

“ZNBC has been a tool of abuse by the government; abused to a point where the paying of K3000 TV licence fee amounts to extortion. One of its functions now is to promote propaganda,” Nkombo said. “In this instance, even Mr George Kunda… can be given space to disparage people. Each time you speak to these ministers individually they speak well. But when they speak collectively, they begin to hallucinate.“

Nkombo said Zambians needed to be told the truth by the government.
“And if they want to use ZNBC to fool people, my message is that 'you can fool some people some time but you can't fool all the people all the time',” Nkombo said.

“They have allowed disparaging remarks from the Vice-President, that man sitted over there. They have gone to the extent of even believing their own lies. This bill would have been welcome in a balanced society where people live at the same frequency, not where you have to concoct something for you to survive in government. You can run but you can't hide, that's the basic principle, ask Dr Katele Kalumba.”

Monze UPND member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu argued that the bill would confer propaganda rights on the MMD.

“During the Iraq war, we had a propaganda chief for the Iraq government called Chemical Ali. And now we have the same scenario in the name of ZNBC. This bill is intended to confer rights of propaganda on the MMD as we approach elections. The Vice-President has called the current law mischievous, but that same law was recommended by the MMD government under Levy Mwanawasa,” Mwiimbu said.

“Unfortunately, that progressive Son of Zambia is no more. ZNBC is not a public broadcaster, as it is now a propaganda wing.”

When deputy chairperson of committees Mkhondo Lungu asked a question as to who supported the bill and who did not, those who supported the bill got it.

This prompted the opposition members to call for a division, which was granted.
And after an electronic voting was conducted, 85 people were in support of the bill, 45 were against, while 2 people abstained.

Lungu announced that the bill had gone through and called for it to be read the third time.
The result attracted shouts of victory from the executive's side as some of them waved their hands in joy, while others were heard shouting “Boma ni Boma!”

Another female MMD parliamentarian was heard shouting “Namu 2011 efyo cikaba! (It will be like this even in 2011).”

And according to results as shown on the plasma screen, among opposition members of parliament who voted with the ruling party were Elizabeth Chitika-Mulobeka for Kawambwa Central, Dr Bernard Chisha for Pambashe, and his Chifunabuli counterpart Ernest Mwansa.

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