The UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications has been working in Zambia for four years, first on a project to help journalists cover HIV and AIDS in a country that has a high infection rate. In 2010, Associate Extension Professor Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, visited Zambia and Botswana to help journalists resist separate efforts by the governments of both countries to suppress journalism and free expression.
In September 2011, a national election in Zambia transferred power to a party that expressed support for a Freedom of Information Act. But passing such a law is no easy task in a country that has no history of such laws, so the State Department, The World Bank and other non-governmental organizations have joined with Zambian journalists, academics, government officials to work for its passage.
Those visiting from Zambia included the president of the Law Association of Zambia, much like our Kentucky Bar Association; an official in the government’s Ministry of Information who is part of a “task team” drafting the law; the parliamentary counsel in the law-drafting department of the Ministry of Justice; the director of research and planning in the Ministry of Home Affairs; a senior lecturer in mass communications at the University of Zambia; the chair of the Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zambia; the public-relations officer for the government-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corp.; and the deputy managing director (editor) of the Zambia Daily Mail, one of the two government-owned daily newspapers.
Anthony Mukwita of the Daily Mail and his counterpart at the Times of Zambia told Al Cross in Lusaka in December that the new government has not interfered with their operations and that they have been free to cover and criticize the government. The privately owned daily, The Post, has a much larger circulation and is aligned with the party that won the election but has on occasion criticized the new government. The government has suggested that it may try to privatize or partially privatize the two newspapers. It is expected to keep its television network, but the country also has a privately owned network.
Zambia lies in the heart of southern Africa and is a major mining and agricultural country. It has more land area than France and a population of about 13 million. Its local media are largely radio stations, many operated by the Catholic Church. It has only a handful of weekly newspapers.
Amye Bensenhaver, right, with the Attorney General’s Office, and John Nelson, second from right, managing editor of Advocate Communications and a KPA Past President, spoke with a group of Zambia government representatives and journalists Monday in the State Capitol. To the left of Nelson is Al Cross, director of the Institute of Rural Journalism and Community Issues. KPA and the AG representatives talked with the Zambian officials about Open Records, Open Meetings and the 2004 KPA project that audited public agencies across the state on their compliance with the state’s Open Meetings/Records laws. John Nelson was president of KPA when that statewide audit took place.