INFORMATION permanent secretary Amos Malupenga says journalists should keep on talking about attacks they receive from political players.
Speaking as guest of honour at a media breakfast organised by the Independent Broadcasting Authority, MISA Zambia and BBC Media Action in Lusaka, Malupenga said keeping quiet would not help.
The breakfast meeting was a follow-up to a symposium the three organisations held in November last on the safety of journalists at Sarovar Hotel in Lusaka.
At that symposium, 19 resolutions were made with other stakeholders, including the Zambia Police Service.
“In order to alleviate the problem of attacks on journalists, conversations on the subject should never cease. So, we should always talk about this subject, particularly as we head towards elections. In Bemba there’s a saying, apakomaila nondo ninshi pali ubulema; meaning we have to continue hammering on this hard,” he told the audience which mostly comprised media owners and managers.
“The fact that we are talking about it, it means there’s a problem. So, we have to continually discuss just so we can find a solution and therefore prevent any danger…. Ladies and gentlemen, as you may be aware, the media plays an important role of providing information, education and entertainment. The media also provides a platform for interactive discussion of matters of importance in the communities they serve.”
He said harassment of journalists from political party cadres has no support from government.
Malupenga emphasised on ethical reporting for journalists to protect themselves from attacks.
“Therefore, any interference, disturbance, harassment, violence or attacks against journalists is an infringement on media freedom and the public’s right to information and has no blessings from the government. And we mean just that; this has no blessings, meaning whenever it happens it is happening without the blessings from the government,” Malupenga added.
And Malupenga advised on ways in which journalists could protect themselves.
He said it would not be right for journalists to always ask for protection when they were not devising their own ways of protecting themselves.
“Government is alive to the fact of media harassment and one way of ensuring a safe working environment is also for our journalists to enhance ethical, responsible and professional reporting, especially before, during and after the elections,” he said. “This is also key to emphasise, we should not just ask for protection. What is it that we are doing for ourselves to protect ourselves? It’s good that we also have media managers here, the CEOs because every profession, every business has got risks. So, we have to identify those risks ourselves and see how we are going to manage them.”
Malupenga further urged journalists to identify their major risks.
He that that could help journalists avoid attacks from external forces.
“This is one of the biggest threats or risks for journalists, particularly in this season, the safety of a journalist will be at risk. But it is not just a journalist, it is all of us from different perspectives. And so, we have to identify these risks and see how we are going to manage them ourselves before we ask external stakeholders to help us,” Malupenga added.
“So, the point I’m making is that, yes, as journalists we’re at risk. And we have a role to protect ourselves before we look up to the police, before we look up to the other political players to help us protect ourselves. How are we going to protect ourselves? This is one area because most of the conflicts arise from the way we have reported. So, if we say something out of context, we say something which is factually incorrect they react.”
He, however, admitted that sometimes journalists were sometimes attacked for reporting the truth.
“So, all we are saying is on our part let’s ensure that we are ethical, we’re responsible and we’re professional in our reporting. We’ll be reducing that risk of attacks on us; we’ll not completely eliminate it because there are others who are averse to the truth,” said Malupenga. “Even when you are factual, they still have issues, they will still complain; and yet what you have reported is factually correct. And they’ll still attack you because sometimes they say truth hurts. So, if the truth you have reported has hurt them, they can mobilise to injure you, to cause damage. So, we have to ensure that we protect ourselves, we protect our institutions, our environment.”