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IPI welcomes progress towards self-regulation

(IPI/IFEX) - 6 April 2011 - The International Press Institute (IPI) today welcomed a commitment from key members of the Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC) to strengthen enforcement mechanisms within the voluntary, non-statutory council. IPI also welcomed comments made by Zambian Vice President George Kunda, who told Parliament on 25 March that the government will refrain from seeking statutory regulation - for the time being.

IPI said it was greatly encouraged by the government's stated openness to self-regulation, and urged the government and the Media Liaison Committee (MLC) of ZAMEC to continue with their negotiations as planned.

IPI sincerely hopes that the government-owned media will be able to participate as full members of ZAMEC when it launches, as they have already adopted the ZAMEC Constitution and Code of Ethics.

IPI has given the Media Liaison Committee a list of suggestions on how the Media Council can better encourage compliance with its decisions. The Council plans on launching its operations this year. Committee spokesperson Daniel Sikazwe, of the Media Institute of Southern Africa's Zambian chapter, welcomed IPI's suggestions and said that the MLC will discuss ZAMEC enforcement mechanisms.

Last year, Information Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha expressed concern that the self-regulatory body, in its current form, would be unenforceable, and suggested that the government would have to regulate the media through a statutory body.

IPI firmly believes that voluntary, non-statutory, self-regulatory media councils are the best and only form of media regulation that does not impinge on the fundamental right to freedom of the press.

"We are delighted that key members of the Media Liaison Committee and the Zambia Media Council are willing to address the government's concerns about enforcement" said IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. "We sincerely hope that the Zambian government will show the same good faith and willingness to compromise that the media have shown, and begin the negotiation process they have agreed to.

"It is of particular importance that all public media be allowed to participate in ZAMEC once it begins its work, which we understand and hope will take place soon."

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