TODAY, Zambian media practitioners will join the rest of their colleagues worldwide in commemorating the World Press Freedom Day.
It is a solemn occasion when journalists reflect on the practice of their profession.
Journalists play a very critical role in information dissemination to keep the country updated on local and international issues.
The fourth estate, as the media is called, has a moral obligation to be factual in news reporting.
The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms: This is Your Right!
Zambian media practitioners will be exercising this very right as they are taking stock of developments in the industry as well as charting the way forward.
It is undeniable that Government has created a level playing field for the media practitioners to thrive.
Little wonder Government has tolerated all manner of media to flourish – online, newspapers, radio and television stations dotted around the country.
The proliferation of online media, private newspapers, private radio and television stations is a confirmation of Government’s commitment to allow local journalists and citizens at large unfettered access to information.
The multiplicity of information sources helps our citizens to make informed choices and decisions.
Other milestones scored include setting up of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA).
The IBA has opened up the airwaves as it is granting licences.
This has culminated in the issuance of a record 90 radio and 33 television licences.
This has further vindicated Government’s decision to enhance people’s access to information.
While Government is eager to grow the media to contribute to poverty eradication and employment creation, we are appalled at the level of unprofessionalism and poor conditions of service in some private media houses.
The conduct of some media houses is worrisome as it has potential to compromise the objective of the journalism profession.
It is unacceptable that some media houses only exist to paint black whatever Government does and will never acknowledge even the massive development projects that have been delivered countrywide.
Some newspapers, radio stations and online media, exist to attack Government officials.
Others thrive on gossip without making any effort to verify their information, which is a prerequisite to publishing any story.
While they are eager to condemn Government, they do not take an introspection of their own conduct.
They are either paying their workers very poorly or delay in paying their workers the same poor wages.
Journalism in Zambia is on trial and it will continue to be so unless all media institutions honestly subscribe to the Zambia Media Council.
We are aware that ZAMEC has no teeth to bite because it has no legal backing. It is simply a ‘name and shame body’.
This does not, however, give journalists the leverage to hit out at their perceived political and business opponents.
The onus lies with the Press Freedom Committee, the Media Institute of Southern Africa, the Press Association of Zambia and the Zambia Media Women Association to urgently come up with a body they will own and will manage media practitioners.
This is moreso because we are in an election year.
We need to guide the nation adequately to help the voters make informed decisions.
Media freedom comes with responsibility. We urge the media personnel to take their rightful role in society by being objective.