INSPECTOR General of Police Kakoma Kanganja says the service’s relationship with the media has historically been delicate.
And Media Liaison Committee chairperson Enock Ngoma says journalists in the country have become an endangered species.
Addressing a breakfast meeting between the Zambia Police Service and media bodies at Protea Hotel Tower in Lusaka, Kanganja said the two sides have viewed each other with suspicion.
He said to create harmony between the two entities, police have come up with specific programmes to be carried out in all provinces.
“… History has it that for decades now the relationship between the police and the media has always been a delicate one as each side has viewed the other with suspicion and often times as enemies, arising from the failure by either side to fully appreciate the role of the other in society particularly in democratic governance,” he said on Thursday. “But ultimately the roles and responsibilities of the media and the police is one – that is to serve members of the public. This entails that we need to respect and appreciate each other’s roles. How can this be achieved? This can be achieved by collaborating and working together when we the police play our role of providing a safe and secure environment for people to carry out their daily activities freely in a safe environment. And you the media disseminate well researched information to members of the society which can help them know the happenings in society and help them improve their lives.”
Kanganja also acknowledged that the relationship between the two parties is inseparable.
He said it entails that “we are all” helping to contribute to the social, cultural and economic development of our country.
“Therefore, our relationship is inseparable, and none of us should work and exist in isolation, unless they have a hidden agenda. I’m sure this is the more reason why we have gathered in this manner so that we get to know each other better, not only from the work life perspective but also from the social life perspective,” Kanganja said. “You may wish to know that in the quest to further cement our relationship, we have come up with a number of activities. And I wish to focus on two major ones, which we plan to implement and these include the following: 10 provincial dialogue forums through respective press clubs and other media associations in all the provincial centres in Zambia. Secondly, four practical trainings in safety and security of journalists covering events such as elections, violent protests, and demonstrations, among others.”
He said the programme was waiting for logistical arrangements to be completed before it could take off.
Kanganja disclosed that the programme would be funded by the United Nations Development Programme.
“I’m sure you can agree with me that this is the first of its kind in Zambia. Additionally, we have developed a module we intend to use to train both the media and the police which will, in turn help enhance our levels of collaboration and friendship. This module outlines, among others, strategies aimed at strengthening police-media relationship,” he said. “And these include the following: police-media dialogue forums which will be replicated in all the provinces, capacity building which will include activities such a straining of police officers on the roles of the media in elections and also the media being trained, which is intended to create awareness on the roles of the police in policing elections; sensitisation and awareness meetings between police and media practitioners focused on educating members of the public on the significant roles that the media play in the communities.”
Kanagnja said the police command would also introduce media focal point officers in all the provinces, who would help provide quick responses to distress calls.
“Allow me to state that we are now approaching crucial moments where we will get into a busy political environment, to be followed by the general elections. I therefore wish to appeal to you the media to work together in policing these elections, electoral activities in a manner which will help promote peace and security in our country,” said Kanganja. “I further urge you to remain professional and avoid media propaganda, abuse of social media and indeed other mainstream media platforms, hate speech, character assassination, which is common during the electoral period; and publication of unverified information and many other media practice vices because they have the potential of plunging our country into chaos just like what has happened in other war-torn countries.”
And Ngoma called on police to protect the media from political party cadres.
“We are all aware that the media of late has become an endangered species. We have seen on many occasions the media being harassed, the media being beaten, and the media being abused. Examples abound. One example we can give which was very bad was a few years ago in Eastern Province where a journalist was urinated into his mouth by a political party cadre,” said Ngoma. “Other examples of late have been the problem of political party cadres storming radio stations to go and disturb a programme that is in progress just because they don’t like the person who is being interviewed on that programme. We feel that we are not protected enough by the police. In short, we feel that the police must work with us in whatever we are doing so that the journalist is protected at all times.”
Meanwhile, Independent Broadcasting Authority director general Josephine Mapoma pledged to work with police in creating a safe environment for the media.
“And arising from the meeting today, we want to pledge that we will give the Zambia Police all the contacts of all media houses in this country. And we are ready to work very closely with you,” said Mapoma. “We also want to facilitate all the meetings that the Zambia Police will be holding and we are ready to come and talk to the media people on how to conduct themselves ethically with the set standards as media people.”