TIMES Printpak Managing Director Godfrey Malama says the model by the current Zambian Media Council (ZAMEC) is still the best instrument to enforce ethical reporting in Zambia.
Mr Malama said the model was still the best instrument as it complies with ‘international best practice’ in a democratic political set up.
He said statutory regulation of the media would jeopardise press freedom and compromise democratic principles as journalism ought to remain a free profession.
“Licensing procedures for journalists, if codified into the law, would be open to abuse by an overzealous regime eager to silence critical voices or any form of dissent,” Mr Malama said.
He said this when he appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Information and Broadcasting chaired by MMD Kasempa Member of Parliament (MP) Kabinga Pande.
He was responding to queries on Media ethics in Zambia, the general perspective and challenges of enforcement.
He said the ZAMEC’s model was a preferred model in a democracy and that stiff sanctions against offending journalists as demanded by some sections of the public were incompatible with a liberal democratic culture.
Mr Malama told the Committee that the level of adherence to media ethics by journalists at Times Printpak which publishes the Times of Zambia and Sunday Times of Zambia was in line with the set of guidelines of the institution.
He regretted that prior to the 2011 general elections, the newspaper succumbed to political pressure resulting in most reporting being biased and tilted in favour of the then ruling party MMD.
He said the biased reporting by the newspaper resulted in libel suits which cost the newspaper a substantial amount of money due to damages paid as compensation to several individuals.
“We have since managed to regain public confidence following improved coverage,” he said
He said public owned media ordinarily ought to advance public interest but that such media was subjected to intense political pressure in the past to back the status quo.
He dismissed assertions that the purported infiltration of the profession by individuals who lack the requisite entry qualifications had compromised quality or compounded the failure to adhere to ethical practice.
“On the contrary, some well trained journalists had often turned out to be the worst culprits of execrable conduct. Training alone cannot make one a principled person; training complements the values and principles which a person already possesses,” he said.