EASTERN Province minister Makebi Zulu says journalists have failed to be self-regulating.
And Chipata Press Club chairperson Oswald Yambani has called for the enactment of the Access to Information law. Meanwhile, Transparency International Zambia executive director Wesley Chibamba says those in authority should allow the media to operate freely. Officiating at the World Press Freedom Day activities at Eastern Comfort Lodge on Thursday, Zulu said journalists should stand and perpetuate justice in their reporting.
“Over time, as government, we have insisted that journalists find a way of regulating yourselves, but the journalists have failed to be self-regulating. The accountants are self-regulating so that they check the conduct of their fellow accountants. If one accountant steals, that accountant will be suspended from the organisation and they can’t practice. Is that the same with journalists? No. Journalists have failed or refused to regulate themselves,” Zulu said.
He said there was need to preserve the “good name” of the journalism profession.
“Lawyers have Law Association of Zambia to regulate themselves because it is known that at some point the client can be a subject of abuse by some lawyers. How are we going to protect the client from the lawyers and preserve the good name of the legal profession? I pose that’s a challenge to you. How are we going to protect the public and preserve the good name of journalism?” Zulu asked.
He said some journalists had used their profession to scandalise other people.
“Some of us have used the pen to scandalise [others], resulting in a lot of people being defamed. Almost every court, there is a case of defamation; most of it perpetuated by the journalists and media houses because they failed or refuse to verify the sources of their information. They failed to distinguish between news and conjecture and as such we have damaged a lot of peoples’ reputations,” said Zulu.
Earlier, Yambani said World Press Freedom Day was a special every to highlight the role the journalists play in preserving and protecting the democratic rule of law.
He also said successive governments had failed to enact the ATI bill.
And Chibamba, in a solidarity statement, stated that the media in Zambia was polarised.
He stated that the media was key to development.
“In line with the theme of ‘Keeping power in check, justice and the rule of law’, we would like appeal to those in authority, especially the political players, to allow the media to operate freely and objectively because a free media is key for any country to achieve meaningful development,” Chibamba stated.
“We are in the information age now, hence the call to let the media operate without manipulation cannot go unheeded as the media are the eye, ears and mouth for the many poor Zambians who wonder why they have continued to suffer even when so many promises are made when political parties are campaigning for power.”
He observed that harassment of journalists had continued.
“Our interpretation of this year’s theme is simple, the media, both private and public, have continued to face harassments, poor conditions of service and draconian laws that hinder their quest in keeping those in power under surveillance and ensuring that justice and the rule of law take its course,” Chibamba stated.
“We are living in an era where if a journalist writes a story critical of government then they are being sponsored by the opposition political party and vice versa. Surely this is unacceptable and needs to change, especially in a country like Zambia where we are governed by the rule of law.”
He stated that currently, there was no freedom after speech.
“It is only true that we expect the media to freely report on all injustice and malpractices without fearing any repercussions. However, what we are seeing is that you can have freedom of speech but no freedom after speech. TIZ is therefore reminding the government and the people of Zambia of their commitment to respect and appreciate press freedom,” Chibamba stated.
He called for objectivity in the media.
” A free media means open criticism, objective news coverage and balanced reporting, a situation we are not seeing in most of the public media houses and private media institutions. Let the media perform their duties and let them keep those with power in check,” he stated.
Chibamba also reminded the media to stick to the highest professional ethics and standards.
“We live in an era where journalists compromise their integrity, they are paid to kill a story or to fabricate a story or just report it in a skewed way, contrary to what professional conduct provides for,” he stated.
And Chibamba observed that the media was polarised.
“The media is so polarised that biased reporting and unfair coverage are the order of the day. There is no longer objective reporting. We challenge the media fraternity to practice professional journalism and observe high ethical standards as we celebrate press freedom day. A free media is key to good governance,” stated Chibamba who also called for the enactment of the Access to Information bill.