The very heavy handed approach exhibited by Police against the two journalists who were recently arrested after a search of their homes was un- called for. The episode had been a great disservice to the image and standing of our country.
It is all the more reprehensible that the search was founded on a deliberately false premise, namely that the officers were searching for drugs, when not.
This fact was not missed by the global fraternity of journalists and journalist organizations that have reported and drawn attention of their Government to the development. Many donor nations that support Zambia have not taken kindly to this assault on the very important pillar of democracy.
It is this kind of mendacity that has slowly but surely eroded the general public confidence in law enforcement agencies. It is this kind of conduct that assails the principle and trust that society reposes in such institutions of governance as the Drug Enforcement Commission, Police and indeed Anti Corruption Commission which are politicized and therefore highly compromised.
The raids and subsequent detention of journalists has provoked international outrage as evidenced by adverse publicity of the country in worldwide media, which negative publicity would have been avoided if a more reasoned approach had been made.
Journalism is one of the most transparent professions in the world. By its very nature the profession operates in the public milieu comprising of print, electronic and more recently worldwide media. This means that thoughts and ideas are exhibited publicly; nothing is secret or indeed targeted at deliberately denigrating the character of any individual of institution.
But like all other professions journalism works within a code of ethics and standards of good practice. These are often buttressed by laws that govern defamation to ensure that rogue practitioners do not abuse their power to slander and damage the character of individuals and institutions.
Zambia has one of the most draconian defamation laws which are in both within the civil as well as criminal statutes, to which the authorities could defer in a more civilized and humane manner than traumatizing individuals in the small hours of the day.
The exercise against the two journalists has, as expected, served the purpose of exposing the Government in negative light and in the process confirming the growing perception that Government is intolerant to criticism.
Journalism does not operate in a vacuum. It operates within the society and reflects the concerns, worries and aspirations of the people.
When journalists get their facts wrong or indeed deliberately report hoaxes with the intention of damaging and thereby crippling reputation and business concerns, adequate laws exist to rectify and correct misrepresentation.
At the same time it must also be realized that access to information is sometimes deliberately frustrated to perpetuate corruption.
This is the case in the Trafigura corrupt oil procurement scandal where in spite of every effort that we have made the Government has failed to avail us information on the relevant tender and adjudication processes on which the decision was made.
As a profession journalism is about communication and communication is about providing a forum for the exchange of information and ideas among members of the community in order to promote and enhance community values.
It is a profession that has ethics and standards, firmly imbedded in the principle of providing factual and credible information. No amount of intimidation will stop journalists from seeking out the truth.