Media should balance freedom, responsibility
Published On May 1, 2015 » 1458 Views» By Davies M.M Chanda » Opinion
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TOMORROW, Zambia joins the world to commemorate Press Freedom that is celebrated every year, May 3 to honour, among other things, the fundamental principles of Press freedom; to evaluate Press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their  lives in the exercise of their profession.
This year’s theme is an ambitious: ‘Let journalism thrive! Towards better reporting, gender equality, and safety in the digital age.’
The profession was recently beset by a tragedy and thus we call on journalists to observe a moment of silence for the Muvi-TV reporter Priscilla Pakhati, who died in an accident with three German doctors on Bottom Road last week.
We strongly feel the day should be an occasion to inform citizens of violations of Press Freedom – a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed,
attacked, detained and even murdered.
While some form of harassment and censorship can be cited in Zambia, we should note that we are lucky as a country in that we enjoy Press Freedom that is denied other scribes in some countries.
With this turn of events, we should encourage and develop initiatives in favour of Press freedom, and to assess the state of Press Freedom worldwide.
The day should also be an occasion to remind ourselves that Press Freedom does not mean making the media a fault-finding institution that perceives the Government as an enemy.
To the contrary, the two can work together to foster the much-needed development in any country.
Whatever critics say, Press Freedom has generally improved over the years in Zambia as seen by the proliferation of social media that is giving non-journalists a platform to air their views.
The social media, though largely unprofessional, has offered an alternative voice to the mainstream media that dominated news dissemination in the past.
The growth in local radio stations and more media outlets – as well as more coverage of the opposition on ZNBC outlets and print media – is also heartening.
The major advantage of social media is that news can be delivered to the market immediately and receive almost instant reaction.
The rise of social media and Internet access means that any suppression of free expression is magnified by these media which are not bound by editorial policies as is the case with many mainstream media houses.
Zambians now have a wide range of news sources and can comment on almost any subject without restrictions of space in print publications and electronic media.
In short freedom of expression has been extended to ordinary non-journalists, which is a giant leap in Press freedom which was once a preserve of the ‘chosen’ few.
The other major development in the long fight for Press Freedom worth noting is the freedom that Government-owned media houses are enjoying now compared to the past.
These media houses are no longer vuvuzelas – mouthpieces of the party and its Government, but can write or air critical analyses of wrongdoings from the policy makers.
It should be noted that perfect Press Freedom is unattainable anywhere in the world, putting the onus on media practitioners to strike a balance between responsible reporting and unbridled Press Freedom that warrants journalists to write whatever they want.

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