Zambia has been a democratic country since the first multiparty elections in November 1991 and as a nation it has been a sort of role model for young democracies in Southern Africa, including countries such as South Africa. However, the media in Zambia has not fully enjoyed the fruits of democracy because the government has continued to control and use the media in the manner it was used during the colonial period and one party state. There is government intereference in state owned media and the private media is highly regulated by media laws that are undemocratic in nature and an infringement on press freedom and freedom of expression.
This research project is an examination of the weaknesses in the Zambian media laws that infringe on the principles of press freedom and freedom of expression, within the realm of the Social Responsibility and Libertarian theories of a free press. The research also identifies the role played by the Zambian state in media regulation. The findings of the research indicate that most media laws were enacted either during the colonial period or during the time Zambia was under a one party state, hence to a large extent these media laws do not adequately reflect the tenets of democracy and the government has been very reluctant to review these media laws. The media in Zambia has been very active and on several occassions have engaged the government to enact better media laws and review the old media laws now that Zambia is a democratic nation. However, despite numerous promises from the government to review these media laws, they have not fulfilled their promises. As a result, the media in Zambia continues to operate under a difficult media legislative environment and consequently the growth of the media has been hampered due to these bad media laws. The state is directly involved in media regulation and exhibit a tendency to use weaknesses in these media laws to intimidate the private media and stifle criticism. The private media finds it difficult to provide an open civic forum for the exchange of ideas because they are under government surveillance. The state owned media is a government mouth-piece, they offer no criticism of the government because they are controlled by the state. This research provides an insight in to the weaknesses in the Zambia media laws and provides evidence of how the state abuses these weaknesses to achieve their own ends, representing a clear infringement on press freedom and freedom of expression principles.