ZAMBIA yesterday joined the rest of the world in commemorating this year’s World Press Freedom Day which falls every year on May 3.
As journalists, allied workers and other well-wishers participated in various activities, which in Lusaka culminated into the address by President Edgar Lungu, the day served as an acknowledgement of the day-to-day struggles faced by journalists.
It was also a reminder to the Government to respect media freedoms.
Indeed, every year, people around the world, including Zambia, commemorate World Press Freedom Day by highlighting and celebrating Press freedom, defend the media against any attacks and recognise the efforts of journalists, globally.
In many countries, media persons are at risk while performing their professional duties and since May 1991, the day has been reserved to reflect on such hurdles.
For Zambia, this year’s commemoration was held with a difference as the head of State, President Lungu, decided to grace the occasion, the first sitting Zambian president to ever do that in the last 30 years the day has been observed.
This is commendable, as it shows the extent of the commitment to media freedoms by the current Government.
President Lungu’s move to officiate at the occasion was a symbol of the Government recognition of the role played by the media in society.
It is, therefore, critical that the media take this newly-required, but deserved recognition to reflect on its performance especially when it comes to issues of professionalism.
Have Zambian journalists, for instance, lived up to the standards of journalism as professionals, who subscribe to strict tenets and ethical standards?
Why is it that sometimes Zambian journalists are doubted on whether they are, indeed, professionals or not?
The answer to that could be in some of the issues alluded to by President Lungu and other speakers yesterday.
For instance, the issue of ‘Blalizo’, wherever the terms came from, should be addressed by all from the newsrooms, management to media bodies, on before the semblance of professionalism is completely eroded.
Indeed, this trend where journalists receive payments from sources, for doing their work, is creating grave worries because it does not seem to be going away.
As the president stated, although times are hard, it is disheartening to see or hear of journalists being paid by sources to do their work and, worse still, that some media owners deliberately underpay journalists and expect them to be ‘fully’ paid by sources.
There is a reminder on another ethical requirement for journalists to report truthfully by doing thorough investigations and talking to all sides of given stories.
The call for professional journalists to separate themselves from citizen journalism and pretenders could not have come at a better time than now.
At the higher level, professionalism entails that professionals should speak with one voice on certain issues of common interest because they subscribe to the same principles and ethics.
That calls for unity among the journalists regardless of who their respective employers could be, after all, all journalists graduate from the same schools, jostle for the same scoops and strive for the same truth.
While we condemn any physical and other attacks on journalism by cadres and other such external people, we feel such attacks are not as painful as name-calling from people who are supposed to be fellow professionals.
It is this behaviour of disunity among media practitioners which makes it difficult for Zambian journalists to identify themselves as professionals and develop a clear joint code of ethics.
Therefore, we challenge media bodies generally, to formulate ways of reuniting the media, reorient journalists to their ethical requirements and censure any divisive elements within the sector.
After all, they say, ‘united we stand, divided we fall’!