Final report of ZACA campaign for removal of customs duty on newsprint

In May 2011 ZACA was awarded a sum of three thousand seven hundred and fifty United States Dollars (US $3750) by Consumer International (CI) under the Access to knowledge programme to undertake a campaign that would lead to the removal of 5% customs duty on imported newsprint in Zambia with the assumption that the price of newspapers would correspondingly reduce thereby making newspapers affordable to the majority of consumers. This in turn would increase access to knowledge as more people read newspapers.

Activities undertaken during the period under review

Publication of first blog

The project published the first blog on CI’s website at http://A2knetwork.org. The blog contains introduction of Association, it outlines the factual background to the campaign, states the objectives of the campaign and summarises the strategies that are planned to be pursued in order to achieve the stated objectives.

17 Media Advocacy Network(MAN) Chairperson Leonard Lungu addressing participants at the stakeholder’s consensus meeting on A2K

Media Advocacy Network(MAN) Chairperson Leonard Lungu addressing participants at the stakeholder’s consensus meeting on A2K at Crestar Golf View Hotel in Lusaka.

Consensus meeting with stakeholders

Consensus meeting with stakeholders was held on 26th October, 2011 at Golf View Hotel in Lusaka. Stakeholders were drawn from Copperbelt University, Evenly Hone College of Applied Arts, Press Association of Zambia, Ministry of Information, Zambia Education Publishing House, Private Newspapers, Public Newspapers, Media Institute for Southern Africa, Zambia Revenue Authority, Consumer Unity Trust and Zambia Consumer Association. The stakeholders acknowledged the need to grow the media industry in Zambia so that its plays its custodial role as the fourth pillar of democracy. However the Zambia Revenue Authority warned of numerous external variables that could impact on the price of newsprint other than tax measures.

Technical papers

After consideration of bids submitted to produce technical papers on access to knowledge it was discovered that all consultants had submitted bids higher than what the Association budgeted for. It was decided therefore that the budget for technical papers be diverted to expenses on lobbying policy-makers and expenses for campaigners who will make submission before the parliamentary select committee.

Lobbying ministers and parliamentarians

Due to political campaigns and subsequent general elections that took place in October 2011 ushering in a new government, this activity was delayed and only began in December 2011. Ninety two (92) Member of Parliament were reached with campaign messages among them forty two (42) cabinet ministers and deputy minsters, campaigners also filed a petition with the ministry of Information and Broadcasting with the copy to the Ministry of Finance demanding the reduction of import duty on newsprint. The campaign team also held a media conference at Crestar Golf View Hotel to highlight the campaign objectives.

Submission before select Committee of Parliament

Two (2) members of the campaign team appeared before the Long Standing Committee on Broadcasting and Information on 26th January 2012, to submit the campaign teams input to the proposed income tax amendment bill before parliament. The thrust of the submission was that government in the 2012 budget should reduce import duty on newsprint by 5%.

Impact

Although the key object of the campaign of removing 5% duty on newsprint was not adopted by parliament at the time the 2012 national budget was adopted by parliament in February 2012, the project had, through its various activities namely; (1) stakeholders meeting, (2) press conference, (3) lobbying members of parliament, (4) submission before select committee of parliament; had managed to raise public awareness about the need to do so in order to make the newspapers more affordable to the majority there by increasing access to knowledge.

Lessons learnt

Two main lessons were learned from this project, namely;

  1. That policy-makers did not know that the largest component cost in producing newspaper was the cost of newsprint. The acquired knowledge during the project helped them to consider the matter of removing the duty in the coming financial year.

  2. That working in coalitions help to maximise the rich human resource capacities available in various organisations and that as a result a campaign can be carried forward by another partner in the event where the objective of the campaign has not been met in the initial stage.

Way forward

As the cost of newsprint is fundamental to the final price of the newspaper, the media houses, through their respective Association, have under taken to continue with the campaign to reduce duty on the newsprint. The Media Associations will make a joint presentation to the Ministry of Finance during the window for tax proposals for the 2012/2013 financial year.

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