ANALYSIS: MUMBA MBEWE
“JOURNALISM can never be silent: That is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air,” says Henry Anatole Grunwald.
True to the scholar’s sentiments, journalism can never be silent; not even by the advancement of technology via the use of social media and other online techniques. It simply evolves with the trend.
As we commemorate our special today, World Press Freedom Day, I would like to remind my fellow journalists that if we want to see change in our country, and the world at large, we must continue to speak out and observe our ethics.
Like this year’s theme states, ‘Information as a public good’, journalists are the voice of the voiceless in society. Therefore, let us research and keep our masses well-informed in an honest and truthful manner.
Are journalists still ethical in their work?
To some extent, I would say yes, scribes conduct their work in an ethical manner. However, with the mushrooming of backyard media houses, especially online, and unqualified journalists, ethics are seen to be sidelined.
One of the challenges faced in this industry is that any Jim and Jack who feels they know how to write, can read aloud, enjoy talking, like gossiping, enjoy playing music, and the like, automatically qualifies to be called a journalist – no!
One needs to enrol for tertiary education, attain their genuine qualification from a reputable educational institution, then they are fit to be called a journalist. Just like I cannot call myself an accountant simply because I am able to solve calculations and make a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.
On this our special day, I would like to appeal to my colleagues to re-focus on protecting the dignity of the journalism profession and help in developing our country at large. Let us echo Tom Stoppard’s words: “I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”
This being an election year, my appeal goes to all professional journalists to try by all means to avoid being used as tools of funning violence before, during and after the polls. We should preach peace and tolerance to the masses.
Gender in media
Allow me to commend most media institutions for giving women opportunities to hold higher positions in running the businesses. Unlike in the past, it is gratifying today to see a good number of women holding positions such as editors, producers, sub-editors, station managers, managing editors, and so much more.
However, on the flip side of things, sexual harassment seems to still take its toll in the industry. It is saddening to learn that cases of sexual harassment are still happening in our industry, with female journalists often being the victims.
Sadly, even some male news sources tend to practise this vice, especially on the young and upcoming female journalists.
Sexual harassment should not be condoned by anyone. Let us continue to speak out against it even as we commemorate our Press Freedom Day. Journalists do succeed in their careers without having to accept sexual favours from either their superiors or news sources. Abash sexual harassment!
To the young and upcoming journalists who are still in secondary school, tertiary institutions or have started practising, always remind yourselves the reason you decided to become journalists and let that be your guide to making it successful in the industry.
Being a young and upcoming journalist comes with its own challenges, which if not well handled, can lead to one’s downfall. Always strive to be ethical and stand for what you believe is right, work at your very best all the time and, please, researching is key to the profession.
To the seasoned journalists, may we help pass on the good mantle to upcoming scribes by providing frequent mentorship sessions. Let us share our professional journeys so that others can learn from our mistakes as we strive to better the image of the profession.
Because today is about the journalism profession, I cannot conclude this write-up without sending my sincere gratitude to some of my mentors, who have never given up on me and always cheer me on to do my best even when I feel like giving up.
My former lecturers at the University of Zambia in the Department of Media Studies, Emmanuel Kunda, Eustace Nkandu and Fidelis Muzyamba. My former workmates and supervisors who literally taught me how to write a good news story – Wallen Simwaka and Ndubi Mvula; current Zambia Daily Mail managing editor Chapadongo Lungu, who gave me the chance to prove myself in my career path; and my supervisors – chief sub-editor Shupe Sililo and deputy chief sub-editor Brian Bwalya.
The list goes on and on, but I shall end here, with my utmost gratitude to my family and the readers who give me both positive and negative feedback. Happy World Press Freedom Day to all journalists in Zambia!
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail senior sub-editor.