ZAMBIA: CITIZENS NEED UNLIMITED ACCESS TO THEIR PREFERRED MEDIA PLATFORMS DURING ELECTIONS, SAYS FR. LEONARD CHITI

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By Bright Chikele…

ZAMBIA Elections Information Centre (ZEIC) council of elders says citizens need unlimited access to their preferred media platforms during elections.

And ZEIC has called on the media to effectively play its role of informing and educating the nation ahead of the August 11 elections. In a statement issued by Father Leonard Chiti, ZEIC stated that the media has an important role of educating citizens on various aspects of the electoral process.

“The Council of Elders of the Zambia Elections Information Centre (ZEIC) urges the media to effectively play its role of informing and educating the nation in a manner that will contribute to enhanced credibility of the 11th August general elections.

The media has an important role of bringing out fundamental issues that will help citizens make informed decisions,” Fr. Chiti stated. “The Council of Elders has received reports from the ZEIC citizen engagement platforms that many people in the country do not understand the critical aspects of the processes such as the referendum for the Bill of Rights. We call on the media and media-stakeholders to take this gap seriously and begin to address the challenges and gaps around the issues of the Referendum and the Bill of Rights.”

Fr. Chiti stated that ZEIC see the media as a critical player in ensuring free, fair, transparent, peaceful and credible elections by reporting in a balanced, fair and objective way.

“It is our considered view that media can mitigate violence by avoiding sensational reporting and hate speech; and providing timely information that will help the responsible authorities to respond on time to address any gaps in the electoral process.

The media ought to provide a bridge through which the electorate and those seeking political office can engage fairly and constructively,” Fr. Chiti stated.

He stated that if the role of the media is compromised, the citizens will be deprived of a platform for communication that can ensure free, fair and credible elections; and that the credibility of elections may equally be questioned. “As the ZEIC Council of Elders, we are aware of the challenging environment within which media houses are operating. We are aware that high operational costs for both the print and electronic media are causing media houses to compromise on certain aspects of their work. We saw how a few days ago the operational challenges facing most media houses got the Post newspaper in trouble with the authorities.

Without getting into the merits and demerits of this case, it is our view that as we approach elections, citizens need unlimited access to their preferred media platforms to receive and share vital information, to engage in informed debates and discussions on matters affecting them,” he stated.

Fr. Chiti stated called on the government to ensure a favorable environment for the media to thrive and positively contribute to the credibility of the elections. “We are confident the Zambian media will rise to the occasion and cover this election in a manner that will enhance the credibility of the elections,” stated Fr. Chiti.

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