ZAMBIA is preparing for the first-ever National Media Convention to discuss topical issues affecting the quality and direction of the journalism profession. This will help examine the place of journalism and its ordinances.
A few months after her appointment, Minister of
Information and Broadcasting Services Kampamba Mulenga announced that her ministry would call stakeholders to a round-table discussion to iron out perceived and real challenges of the media and its relationship with the government.
The permanent secretary, Mr Godfrey Malama, has since written letters inviting associations, media houses and other stakeholders to make submissions to the ministry on the subjects that should be tabled at the national convention.
I am extremely challenged to ignore this development considering that this will be the maiden convention where every journalist who is interested in the welfare of the profession will have their liberties to speak on the grievances they might have.
I am not qualified to predict that the relations between the government and the media will improve or that suddenly Zambian journalists will become very ethical in their reporting. But I want to believe that there will certainly be one major step.
Perceptions and real threats, issues about the role of the media in a democracy will be discussed and a willing heart will find reason to celebrate that without necessarily judging whether or not the meeting will achieve its purpose.
The biggest purpose to be achieved is that there will be a convention and the outcome will remain within every participant’s opinion.
A lot of things have been said about the growing trends of yellow journalism and ignoring them will only serve to destroy both professional journalism and its influence.
There is a big package that awaits media practitioners at the convention, whose venue and period are yet to be announced. Why do I say this?
It is the media themselves who are submitting items for discussion and this means that they are capable of isolating their own shortcomings.
The government has simply recognised that the media is not meeting its space. The role of the media clearly is to give reasons why they are failing to meet those professional spaces.
The media is not a chopping board for smashing political opponents. The media is a meeting place for the exchange of ideas. Ideas are issues that can contradict in terms of their sources, their impact, their influence and their purpose.
Ideas that always agree are dead and boring because they lack a thought process. They are composed by people with a common interest.
However, this does not appear to be the desire when media players package their product. They tend to isolate people or institutions they do not agree with and seek to chop them to a pulp.
That is journalism acrimony born out of the gutter. They must be surrendered to the gutter. Journalism is noble and those that practise it are men and women of noble repute. Anything outside this box is alien to journalism, it is a hoax.
So the indaba must not fall shy of recognising the deliberate efforts to distort journalism. Journalism is not blackmail firmed to check opponents. Its parameters are known and do not change with the mood of a fearful few.
So, yes, I agree that the government is a stakeholder in the operations of the media while the media is equally a stakeholder in the operations of the government. The gesture to call the national convention and deliberate only every issue affecting the growth of the profession is a step that should have taken place longer before today.
The media space should not be an isle to society. It should not be a place where people should show which politician has the most abusive words in the universe.
The author, Patson Phiri, is a Zambian journalist.