Twisting facts

The media should not be used to deliver twisted facts.

It is particularly unfair to take advantage of the privileged position the media enjoys to promote tribal hate messages which are inimical to national cohesion.  Media ownership should not be abused to advance divisive messages that bring sections of society into hatred and ridicule.

Genuine advocacy must be based on proven facts, not conjecture and unfounded notions. Where corruption is alleged it should be exposed. Blanket accusations only serve the purpose of undermining governance. Where governance fails the populace suffers.

The media should not set as its agenda a process of weakening Government. A weak Government is a danger to the populace because weakened structures of governance will fail to perform and therefore endanger and compromise good governance. A weak Government  cannot stand up to accountability.

Allegations of corruption and malfeasance of any type must be exposed to scrutiny. Blanket accusations  and innuendo do not advance the cause of good governance and accountability, they only muddy the waters and undermine the efforts of the upright and diligent citizens who endeavour to put in their best effort.

We may differ in our opinions but this is no cause for divisive acrimony that threatens the integrity of our major pillars of governance.

The media has been described as the backbone of democracy, without which no effective social, political and economic dialogue will take place. In emerging democracies, such as our own, the media has a special responsibility of bridging the gap between the people and their elected representatives with whom they have a social contract.

The media has also been described as a mirror of society, which brings to the fore the harsh realities of conditions of life suffered by the people.

Democracy does not end with the periodic elections that usher in new Governments. It includes the continuous process of effective and dynamic feedback between the people and their elected representatives.

This special role is only possible if the media itself can be held to account in relation to transparency, accountability and adherence to media ethics.

A compromised media seeking favours from Government will hardly serve the purpose for which it is intended. In the same vein a media that  seeks to impose itself on the polity will not only distort the image but will inject extraneous variables which may be totally irrelevant to the aspirations and concerns of the people.

Given that the media market is limited, the temptation for private media to be compromised in order to make up for economic deficiency is quite attractive. This may happen in two ways, either by being sensational and therefore appealing to the base interests of readers or indeed becoming captive to the political echelon.

The situation is more complicated by the existence of public media which is controlled by the Government. The cliché that public media is submissive is certainly not always borne out by reality as some editors have taken it upon themselves to champion independence.

Tragedy however occurs when the media sells its soul to narrow minded bigots whose world view is stunted by their personalities. In such cases the media becomes a channel of twisted information which serves no useful role in modeling and championing the cause of promoting accountability.

In this case the media departs from the mission of reporting the truth to advocacy of agitation.

The truth can be told without offensive language. Indeed the truth should be told through sober, objective and well researched facts. Generalization which pander to the morbid and fascination of the “market” distorts the mirror and is bound to create antagonism.

In a country with such wide diversity as Zambia the media must make special effort to balance tribal, religious, sectional and indeed political interests in order to remain relevant and therefore a conduit of national consciousness.

The media should never lose sight of this goal because the continent is replete with examples of mismanaged media freedom. The results have been disastrous and those who have suffered are innocent men and women.