Editor's Comment

Media should help build the country

THE media plays a very significant and influential role in our society today.
Without the media, people in societies would be isolated, not only from the rest of the world, but from governments, lawmakers, and neighbouring towns and cities.
The media is the vehicle through which information is transmitted for the much-needed development of communities.
We all know that without a wide array of information, people’s opinions and views would be limited and their impressions and conclusions of the world around them stunted.
It is for this reason that Government over the past five years has worked to create a level playing field for the media to thrive.
This is evidenced by the proliferation of online media, private newspapers, private radio and television stations across the country.
Government has indisputably shown commitment and goodwill to allow local journalists and citizens at large, unconstrained access to information.
While Government has been keen on allowing the media to flourish in the interest of creating a better country, some media houses have decided to depart from the basic tenets of journalism.
It seems to have eluded some media houses that the press freedom they were enjoying comes with responsibility.
Given the influence of the media on society, ethics dictate that journalism practice should always be within the confines of public interest.
It is important that journalism practice in any media organisation endeavours to provide content that builds rather than destroys.
It is on this basis that the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has with immediate effect suspended the licences for Muvi TV, Komboni and Itezhi –Tezhi radios.
According to IBA board chairperson Justin Mutale, the three media houses have been shut down for threatening national security through unprofessional conduct.
The authority observed that before, during and after the August 11 general elections the three media houses conducted themselves in an unprofessional manner contrary to the provisions of the IBA Act.
The suspensions have been effected in accordance with Section 29(1) (j) of the IBA Amendment Act of 2010
As a country, we are going through a very delicate political transition, which has been marred by hate speech, regional divisions and violence.
We are still in a period where anxieties are high because of the petition which has been filed against the declaration of President Lungu as winner.
And recent media reports have revealed violent attacks in some parts of the country, especially Southern Province.
When a country is faced with such a delicate situation, the role of media should be to promote reconciliation and peace rather than fuelling conflicts.
The Zambian media should therefore conduct themselves in a responsible and ethical manner to avoid what happened in Rwanda where the media was at the centre of tearing down the nation rather than building it.
We all know that because of the carelessness of the media who transmitted hate speech; between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Rwandans were massacred and 2,000,000 displaced within a period of 100 days.
It is, therefore, worrying when we see media houses in Zambia misusing the power vested in them by spreading hate speech and violence.
Depending on how the media package information, they may drive a vicious circle of fear and prejudice and, in its most extreme forms, may propel people to violence.
We are also aware of alarming and unconfirmed reports which have been propagated by some media houses without consideration of the devastating effects on the peace and security of the country.
For instance, Dr Nevers Mumba was on Muvi TV declaring that UPND had won the election before the Electoral Commission of Zambia, a body mandated with the duty of declaring a winner, could do so.
Such proclamations have potential to raise anxieties which can later degenerate into anarchy when reality turns out otherwise.
Surely as Zambians we have come a long way for us to sacrifice our country’s peace at the altar of irresponsible journalism.
IBA as a body mandated to set standards for radio and television stations as well as monitor licensees to ensure compliance is therefore within its duty to take necessary measures against any erring electronic media house much more if it poses a threat to national security and peace.
The suspension of the three media houses should therefore serve as a warning against any overzealous journalists and media houses who may have forgotten their role in society – to build and not to destroy.

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