INFORMATION minister Dora Siliya has advised journalists in the country to set a high standard for themselves in order to be recognised as professionals.
The minister told journalists to emulate other professionals like lawyers and medical personnel who have earned public respect and pride by, inter alia, belonging to professional bodies. Siliya was responding to a question from a journalist who asked her to comment on perception, especially from veteran media practitioners, that the standard of journalism in Zambia currently was at its lowest.
The journalist further asked whether journalism training institutions in Zambia had to do more or the journalists themselves needed to raise the bar.
In response, Siliya said her ministry had held a number of meetings with “media leaders” and that one of the things that “we have continued to discuss is that [media] practitioners, yourselves have to fight to be recognised as professionals.”
“When you are a professional, there is a certain standard set. The Law Association of Zambia, the medical practitioners, engineers have a standard. Now, government [or] we in this office will not set the standard for you – you as media practitioners have to get together and agree about what professionalism is and set the minimum standard so that you all can walk with your head high and say ‘I’m a member of this media institution and it means that I am a professional and respected’. Among yourselves you can be able to say ‘no, this was bad practice’, just like the lawyers do. When one lawyer misbehaves in terms of professional misconduct, it’s not government that says that lawyer has misbehaved – it is the Law Association of Zambia,” Siliya explained during her address to journalists at her weekly Wednesday media briefing in Lusaka.
“So, the onus is on media practitioners and your leadership to get together and say this is the minimum [professional standard] we’ll accept and you work with training institutions that this is the kind of training that is required and that this is who we are. “
She stressed that journalists would have to seek professionalism themselves as part of self-regulation and as part of self-recognition “so that everybody can say ‘this one is a practicing journalist in Zambia.”
“It is not because that they work for [News] Diggers or ZNBC but that beyond those institutions they belong to a professional body. In fact, what that will do, because you will be such professionals, it won’t matter whether you are working at ZNBC or Diggers or Daily Nation. The point is [that] it will give you power against owners of these media institutions so that you can stand on your feet and say because I’m a professional, I know what good journalism is. This is the message that we have given to the media leaders in the various organisations – Zambia Union of Journalists, PAZA, MISA and so on. We have said for the first time, champion yourselves,” said Siliya.