WE choose to be charitable to Honorable Kambwili because he genuinely exhibited a lack of understanding of journalism practice.
Firstly Mr. Kambwili must understand that the authoritarian type of journalism in which stories were ordered by political prominence, reminiscent of the communist era, went with the one party regime. We now operate in an entirely new democratic regime.
We now live in a plural liberal democracy in which the media as the fourth estate operates on a premise informed by professionalism and universal code of conduct.
This means that stories are ordered on merit. The issue of political prominence does not arise. What counts is the prominence and significance of the story and placement is at the absolute discretion of the editor.
We are aware that there has been a gradual erosion of values and standards in the journalism profession where opinion now passes for news. This is wrong. News stories are accounts of what has transpired and should be reported without comment or opinion, whereas the editorial enjoys license to accommodate a comment and opinion.
The media and public outrage occasioned by the singular act of Hon Kambwili and PS Kasolo barging into the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation(ZNBC) newsroom is based on the understanding that in a democracy the media like other arms of Government should be allowed to operate independently.
While it may be argued that ZNBC is a Government institution and must therefor give exceptional coverage to the owner – the Government – the reality is that the Corporation is a public broadcaster with ultimate responsibility to the people of Zambia. This is why the Board of Directors is ratified by the National Assembly to emphasize the public role it enjoys.
This role comes with duties and responsibilities, one of which is to be accountable to the people by observing the highest standards of professionalism. Where this fails mechanisms for relief are available.
As a constitutional democracy, the rule of law should prevail, meaning that the executive should exercise a measure of self restraint and control to allow for other wings to operate freely.
The current debate within the Patriotic Front betrays a very worrying development. It shows a divided Government which fails to observe the minimum character of collective responsibility, due to political differences that are not tame.
Hon Kambwili is not the Minister of Information and Broadcasting and should not therefore be seen performing outside his domain. The fact that he is close to the Vice President Dr. Guy Scott who has equally displayed a lack of sensitivity, does not give him permission to cross into another ministry. Ordinarily such action would have merited censure but these are not ordinary times, chances are that the minister will get away with the misconduct.