ASSOCIATIONS play a pivotal role in any profession, as they pull individuals towards a similar goal – excellent and reliable contribution to the well-being of society.
All associations, whether those for the more long-standing professions such as medicine and law or those for relatively newer ones, seek to add value to the wellness of any society.
Any profession with fragmented representation of its members is likely not to give optimal contribution to that wellness. In fact, associations constitute a major avenue for the prosperity of any society such as our very own â€“ Zambia.
That is why this article has, of necessity, decided to take a close look at what is obtaining in the media in our country with respect to media associations.
Anyone keen enough to know some details about journalists, media practitioners more broadly, in Zambia knows that there are at least two major media associations in the country.
At least, they know of the Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) â€“ Zambia Chapter.
From a bigger picture, it is well-known that a good number of professions have only a single body.
There is only one Law Association of Zambia (LAZ), one Resident Doctors Association of Zambia and one Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants (ZICA).
I painstakingly wanted to circumvent the Engineering Institute of Zambia and the Zambia Institute of Marketing because I was not sure whether to involve them in my discussion of the fact that there are several and various professional associations for media practitioners in the country. I was not sure to do that also because of the possibility of confusing an association with an institute.
While an association is a group of people with common interests, I was careful to introduce institutes, which somehow are bodies prescribing how things should be done among professionals and normally, have strong emphasis on training and research.
However, I have risked to discuss them because, generally, they serve to strengthen the value of their individual members as professionals and enhance the value of their contribution to the common good, in the words of the ancient and revered scholar Aristotle.
The professional bodies cited are some of the most thriving in the country. But, as stated already implicitly, the aim of this discourse is to highlight the need for professionally united media in Zambia, through membership to one powerful and strictly Zambian association.
Everyone knows the power of unity of purpose; it is everywhere from politics to football. When a group of people are united in their work, their output is massively improved, which leads to soaring respectability or social status.
No one can dispute the impact of the media in Zambia. A good number of decisions and even policies in the country are informed by the work of the media.
All professional bodies such as LAZ and ZICA work with the media in one way or the other. So do other stakeholders in the quest for Zambiaâ€™s socio-economic development, of which politicians, chiefs, civil society organisations and private enterprise could be some of the perfect examples.
The Zambian media, however, needs to come up with an all-encompassing and more authoritative professional association.
This is critical because there are very few journalists or media practitioners in Zambia today who can make a genuine and proper claim that they actively belong to a media association in Zambia.
There are very few paid-up members of media associations in Zambia, and yet we have associations operating in the country. Why is it that many Zambian journalists are not actively involved with the associations?
That question is very important and thus deserves some sobre attention and reflection. I say so, because I personally know many distinguished journalists who actually do not actively belong to any media association. If they do, it is most probably in name rather than in active association.
How come we have powerful journalists not actively involved in any of the media associations around? Where do they have professional interaction, that ingredient that is important for anyone dreaming of greater professionalism?
I ask those questions because professional associations fundamentally serve as vehicles of enculturation.
These associations also create a sure platform for the addressing of critical questions arising out of practice – daily work. Some of those questions have quite a lot to do with ethics.
That is essentially vital because universities and colleges may not be best suited to handle certain problems journalists come face-to-face with in their routine practice.
The best forum for handling such problems is actually an association to which all journalists or media practitioners in Zambia, would subscribe to owing to the fact that it is established to look at the professional development of journalists and the growth of journalism as a profession in the country.
That will not only ensure passage or sharing of vital principles and information among journalists leading to better journalism but also increase the confidence Zambians have in local journalists. Moreover, it will help to restore the respect of journalists in Zambia.
Zambian journalists are intelligent and very resourceful people just like other professionals. They, like other professionals, are making a huge impact on the Zambian society. But they seem to lack one thing â€“ a Zambian media association to which all of them could subscribe. Once they achieve that, their impact will be even bigger.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail sub-editor
Zambian journalists need a united association