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Jesuit Scholars in Zambia Call for Fair Media Coverage of Ongoing Political Campaigns

An image showing vote casting in Zambia. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Members of the Jesuit Conference of Theological Reflection (JCTR) have called on media players in Zambia to observe fairness in the coverage of the ongoing political campaigns ahead of the August 12 general elections.

In a Monday, June 14 statement, JCTR officials “call for an even play field in the coverage of political party messages in the public media.”

“Every Zambian has the right to be well informed of various political party messages through the public broadcaster,” they say in the statement signed by the Executive Director of JCTR, Fr. Alex Muyebe.

For this reason, officials of the Zambia-based research institute say, “the public media must endeavor to create a situation in which every political party has a fair and equal chance of succeeding in order to guarantee a free, fair and credible General Elections on the 12th August.” 

In the statement obtained by ACI Africa, the Jesuit scholars also express concern about the rising incidents of political violence amid the political campaigns in the landlocked Southern African nation that kicked off in May.

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Describing the violence as “worrying and disheartening,” JCTR officials say the nation “is slowly slipping into a situation of civil strife with rising spate of violent attacks between UPND (United Party for National Development) and PF (Patriotic Front) cadres in the run up to the 12th August General Elections.”    

They condemn the violence saying it has “no place in our Christian nation.”

The Jesuit scholars say the political violence will come to an end if politicians “do not only stop at casually condemning violence but also engage at a deeper level with their followers and honestly bring home and inculcate the message of non-violence, tolerance, mutual respect and upholding for human dignity and sanctity of life.”

They add that violence can be completely stemmed out if both PF and UPND parties have good leadership.

Cognizant of the upsurge in the reported cases of COVID-19 and the warning from the Ministry of Health that the country may be overwhelmed by the pandemic, JCTR officials urge politicians in their host nation to “demonstrate their love for the people of Zambia by immediately halting all activities that inevitably occasion a public gathering.” 

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On June 14, Zambia’s Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kennedy Malama, said the country’s health care system had been overwhelmed with increased admissions of COVID-19 patients in the last three weeks.

Dr. Malama added that “with the current disease trajectory, we can easily fill over 1,000 beds in less than two weeks.”

The Health PS called on all leaders in the country “to take that step in COVID-19 prevention advocacy and ensure that community transmission of COVID-19 is thwarted.”

Zambia has recorded 113,134 cases of the pandemic including 1,416 deaths and 98,994 recoveries.

In their June 14 statement, JCTR officials say the current COVID-19 situation “calls for all of us to show solidarity and commitment to save our country from the imminent health and socio-economic catastrophe by doing what is right – that is, avoiding super spreader events and ensuring adherence to the 5 golden rules.”

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The five golden rules are wearing face masks, observing social distance, avoiding crowded places, washing hands frequently or using hand sanitizer and seeking medical advice when one observes COVID-19 symptoms.