Of journalists and Stomachs

 By Mazuba Mwiinga

If you put a crop of journalists and a politician to debate the role of the media in a democracy; who do you think would give you a far reasonable exegesis? No prizes for guessing right of course.

I have very little saliva to wet my mouth right now when I come to think of it. I have traded the journalism line for a couple of years, but never have I been so ashamed to listen to one so called journalist paint my trade with false colours.

The day was Friday July 22, 2011. Place was Capital Theatre in Livingstone City. The theme was: The Role of the media in a democracy. The panellists were 4 journalists; two from Zambezi Fm, one from Radio Mosi-o-tunya and one from Muvi Tv and the other was the Deputy Mayor for Livingstone City.

Wasn’t I shocked more so, worried with the calibre of journalists we have, if these represented the average rate of an average journalist in the City? I eat a humble pie if this pricks one’s skin with pain, but truth be told my friends had nothing to offer to the theme at hand. If they thought they were right; knowledge begs their time.

The presentations were either skewed towards the ‘types of media’ we have or it was blabbered on mis-carried concept of media ethics and media house rules or on the types of governments found in a democracy. It was saddening hearing wick-wacky thoughts coming from people who were supposed to know better than the average common man.

Kudos though, to the Deputy Mayor; He was straight and to the point; as distinct as the role of the media must be; and congratulations to him for frankly stating that most journalists nowadays are losing their status as a fourth estate; to inform truthfully, honestly and objectively; to entertain creatively and to educate intelligibly.

And here is where the shock of my night struck. One journalist from Zambezi Fm defends himself saying there is more to journalism than can see the eye; that where a journalist was supposed to think with his head, he now uses his stomach. Money! That a journalist has a family to look after therefore, where the money calls he goes, despite having a duty to report the truth to the people. What a callous shame?

Aren’t we today producing second hand journalists in the name of media diversity? Journalists are born and not made; if one wakes up today and says I want to become a journalist just because I like how Mazuba reports or because I want to be appearing on Tv, tell them to consider farming and not waste people’s time with their fancy nightmares.

Journalists are accountable to the people and not any power that may be. Giving an excuse that the journalism classroom is different from the industry is hiding behind the reality of who a journalist is. If you are a coward better choose to be a receptionist and not a journalist. Every media organisation must be founded on journalism ethics; and any media house rule that abrogates the universal journalism ethics, remain null and void; and a journalist must only follow that which he was taught and that which protects his integrity – ethics.

A journalist who doesn’t follow journalism ethics in the name of media house policy is not worthy the name of a journalist. One has to know that there are no ethics for private media journalists and another set of ethics for the public media journalist because journalism ethics are set for all journalists regardless of the media house they are working for.

A journalist who thinks with his stomach and not with his brain is as useless as a sack full of holes and tasked to draw water using it.

It was such a disappointing forum on the part of the quality of knowledge these journalists had on the topic. Even accusing non availability of the Freedom of Information Act in the nation is a lame excuse that has no base because none of them could even articulate correctly what the FOI Bill contains!! The little information they have was wrong and dangerously incorrect because the FOI is not just a Bill for journalists alone, but the entire Zambian citizenry. I am more than sure none of them had taken time to peruse through this document to see what it contains.

Cracking my head on this, petrifies me even more; how on earth sure could one reduce himself to be a media bootlicker by losing his morals and ethics just for money and leave his job he was trained for? Journalists are accountable to the people and not to their bosses. Period! Those that think with their stomachs are parasites and weeds and need to be sprayed off and weeded out.

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