THE Government has challenged board members at the Zambia Daily Mail to take media reforms to a higher level in line with the changing trends in society.
Information, Broadcasting and Labour Minister Fackson Shamenda urged new board members to ensure that the implementation of media reforms takes centre stage in meeting the society's expectations.
Mr Shamenda in the company of his permanent secretary, Amos Malupenga was speaking during an inaugural meeting of the board of directors for Zambia Daily Mail headed by Standard Chartered Bank managing director, Mizinga Melu in Lusaka yesterday.
The minister said media reforms were crucial to ensuring the independence of the media hence calling for close collaboration with the new board.
He said the public media in particular required an urgent shift of management style and turn institutions into more viable business entities.
Mr Shamenda recalled that the public media under the MMD regime had been turned into a mouthpiece of government and that this had caused shame and eroded the pride of public media institutions.
"I take this inaugural board meeting as yet another practical step towards delivering on our campaign promises. We promised that we were going to bring tangible media reforms in this country.
We in the PF, together with the majority of Zambians, were greatly stressed and angered at the way the public media were operating. The public media became a mouthpiece of the MMD government," he said.
Mr Shamenda outlined some of the impediments towards media reforms under the MMD as failure to ensure the effectiveness of the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) Amendment Act, the enactment of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act and refusal to pass into law the Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill of 2002.
He singled out his predecessor, Ronnie Shikapwasha for taking a solid hand in controlling the media and that at one point he sent a mobile text message to him requesting if he could announce the funeral of his late relative on ZNBC.
The minister said the request shocked him because access to the media was meant for all Zambians.
"My predecessor never listened to news and read papers only lately because they were part of the editorial team in our newspapers and they were involved in changing the content, which is not supposed to be the case," he said.
Mr Shamenda said the stance taken by the previous government and having been victims of torrid media access, the PF committed itself to review the impediments and ensure media accessibility in the party manifesto.
"As newly appointed board members, I am formally welcoming you to be part of the team of technocrats, to put systems in place, for the purposes of assisting this people's Government to deliver its promises.
"I am urging you to do your best to ensure that the shame that was put on Zambia Daily Mail is removed and forgotten. Let it be the pride of the people," he said.
Mr Shamenda urged the board to ensure the newspaper company became prosperous by among others increasing circulation, capturing its marketing share of advertisements and motivating staff.
He added that the firm should also rise above temptations of being rubber-stamps to management decisions, which was a common factor.
He said the public media institution had great viability and needed to be turned on a path of profitability.
Mr Shamenda assured the board of Government's support and that their appointments reflected confidence that they would be able to perform to great expectations.
Additionally, Mr Shamenda cautioned media practitioners against sensational writing which could lead to chaos and unnecessary litigations in the courts of law.
Board chairperson, Ms Melu expressed determination to ensure the Mail became viable as expected and that staff welfare would be high on the board's agenda.
Ms Melu shared concerns on the need for improved and timely circulation of the daily newspaper especially to rural areas and the creation of a media-friendly environment for journalists to operate freely and effectively.
"The job is tough but we are a winning team with a diverse professional background, we will be able to know how much we have achieved by how much will be able to change. We will run this company as a business and so we accept the appointments with humility," she said.