Human Rights Commission Chairperson Mudford Mwangala has urged media houses and individual in Zambia to take advantage of the just launched Media Defense Fund to fight against intimidation and harassment.
And Mwandenga says it 1s unfortunate that some lawyers don’t like taking up cases that have to do with violation of human rights because such cases don’t offer them the much sought after profits.
Speaking during the launch of the Media Defence Fund by Chapter One Foundation yesterday, Mwandenga said the launch of the Fund should in itself call for celebration among Journalists and human rights defenders.
“The launch of a Media Defence Fund is an extremely important development that should in itself call for celebration among Journalists and the human rights defenders. In the same vein, I wish to congratulate Chapter One Foundation on assuming the responsibility of administering the Media Defence Fund, which I believe will greatly contribute to the promotion and protection of media freedom and protection of media freedom of expression in Zambia. In this regard, I am given to understand that Chapter One Foundation will administer the Media Defence Fund to take up cases of media rights violations, conduct trial monitoring and institute strategic public interest litigation to defend media rights and the freedom of expression, “he said.
Mwandenga urged journalists and media houses to take advantage of the Media Defence Fund in order to have any media freedom and freedom of expression violations redressed.
“It is the Human Rights Commission’s expectation that the Media Defence fund, will among other measures, contribute to redressing the root causes of the violations and abuses of media freedom and freedom of expression It must be pointed out that journalists and media houses are supposed to take advantage of this Media Defence Fund because they are usually the ones who are at the receiving end violations of media freedom and freedom of expression. But in most cases, they do not take up such cases further presumably because of lack of funds with which to engage Counsel to handle such | cases. It is our view as the Human Rights Commission that such an excuse going forward should not be used at all especially that the Media defense Fund has established and will be launched today,” he said.
“Journalists and Media Houses are called upon to take advantage of this Media Defence Fund in order to have any media freedom and freedom of expression violations redressed or remedied. But above all it must be pointed out that the onus of having media freedom and freedom of expressions redressed or remedied Journalists, Media Houses, individuals affected by such violations and indeed Human Rights Defenders. When such violations take place, it is not proper for persons affected to simply fold there. hands, drop their pens, shut down their computers or switch off their cameras and do nothing about the violations. Such conduct merely but encourages media freedom and freedom of expression violators to get away with such violation and are therefore encouraged to continue doing such violations.”
Mwandenga said it was unfortunate that some lawyers don’t take up cases of human rights violation because they don’t give the much sought after profits. It is unfortunate that lawyers… how many lawyers do we have present here? Can I see you (gesturing to the audience).
“It is unfortunate that most of the times, lawyers don’t take up cases of human rights violation because they don’t give the much sought after profits, this is a noble undertaking what with the fact that most lawyers in this Country seem not to be keen on taking up human rights related. cases ostensibly because such cases do not yield the much-needed profits that most lawyers clamor. The Media Defence Fund will in our view come in handy so that cases of media rights and freedom of expression violation are taken up with the appropriate authorities and/or indeed the Courts of law,” said Mwandenga.
Meanwhile, Chapter One Foundation Executive Director Linda Kasonde explained that the goal of the legal defence fund is to strengthen the enabling environment for independent and new media.
“The Media Defence Fund is established under the ‘Open Spaces Zambia’ (OSZ) project which is funded by USAID and implemented by Internews in partnership with FHI360, the goal of the legal defence fund is to strengthen the enabling environment for independent and new media. The Media Defence Fund supports existing registered legal practitioners to offer legal representation to media practitioners. The persons that qualify to access/support on a need and availability basis under the fund are Media Practitioners who include. not only those practicing journalism under established media house, but also those involved in any form of communication with the purpose of disseminating factual information to the public through different forms of media,’ she said.