11 December 2012

Zambia: Minister Musenge Gets to Grips With Copperbelt Media Outfits Hurdles


STAND up for public interest.

Today, this is a call revolving around the public media's professional passion to follow its own instruction of media independence with all the blessings of the Patriotic Front (PF) administration.

Rightly so, Copperbelt Minister Mwenya Musenge espouses that modern society continues to offer great rewards for journalists who have flabby hearts and jagged words to articulate issues surrounding the plight the general populace.

Mr Musenge's lucid expression, no doubt, fits in the expression of that the public media should guard against sensational journalism.

This becomes even more evident when he officially toured media houses in Kitwe in Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), Daily Mail and Times of Zambia in a stride to familiarise himself with the operations of the institutions and wholly appreciate the challenges facing the news outfits.

The minister visited the media outfits on October 19, 2012 in the company of the Kitwe District Commissioner, Elias Kamanga, who effectively shared sentiments that the media is part of the custodian of national affairs.

The public media is urged not to find it inconvenient to articulate public Government policies crafted to benefit the plight of society when it is necessary in the interest of the general populace.

The public media, in its professional forms, has its duties as its fundamental right and responsibility to reflect the chassis of society and empower societal players to make informed decisions based on accurate information availed to them relating to events surfacing and surrounding the welfare of the ordinary members of the community.

Tell me what would you say, even if you were outside the box?

Mr Musenge, on his visit to ZNBC, intoned that it was cardinal for the media to evaluate and define pointers to national projects and programmes aimed to alleviate the plight of society.

"There are a number of programmes and projects that the Government was instituting to benefit the welfare of ordinary Zambians in line with the party manifesto."

On his first stop at the ZNBC, Mr Musenge put it candidly that the role of the media in societal development remains paramount in the implementation of the PF administration policy, contending that the national broadcaster was supposed to identify programmes which were spearheaded by the ruling administration and identify the pros and cons so that the ordinary folk could appreciate what the Government was doing to improve the welfare of society.

The minister explained, that the national media should help the general population appreciate what the ruling administration was ding to improve the plight of society by offering valid checks and balances to activities being pursued by Government.

This enables the Government to take appropriate institutional measures.

The minister begins: "The positive role of the media in its timely coverage of events affecting the people is what has made me to come here and learn about the challenges the public media was facing."

He explained that timely coverage of national activities was cardinal to the Government agenda to develop the country.

He said the media should ensure free flow of information so that the public was able to make informed decisions.

The media should report negative and positive events which were constructive to ensure that the Government took measures.

Mr Musenge said his visit to public media organisations was prompted by the sad reality that news or information flow was erratic and not timely, something which defeated the essence of the concept of news.

He said Kitwe was crippled with erratic water supply and wondered why media houses failed to engage managers of water utility firms to explain and inform the public on challenges they were facing so that the public could appreciate the challenges the service providers were facing to meet their expectations.

This would enable the ordinary members of the community to appreciate how such problems were being addressed.

"Our concern, as a Government was timely information flow which enables people to make timely decisions on issues affecting them. Much has to be done. The Government has to give you the latitude to operate independently unlike was the case during the previous regime where information was distorted. You should report timely so that people are able to appreciate," the minister said.

Those sentiments ably marry the timeliness basics of journalism, as renowned journalism guru, Edem Njokotoe, would have said during his features and English literature lectures at Evelyn Hone College during the 1990s.

Then ZNBC north region controller, Daniel Chisha, almost in a defeated stance, said that the corporation was able to articulate the national agenda of the PF Government, admitting: "Yes, we have missed out on some things but I can promise you that we will improve (our operations) ... you need to tour the station to appreciate what we are doing."

Mr Chisha said during the tour of ZNBC that transport was a challenge.

The minister toured the ZNBC video unit, marketing, Television (TV) production unit. Library (which appeared ill-equipped with recording dating almost 20 years ago yet the station started function sometime in 1960), radio studio, educational TV section, multimedia laboratory, radio 2 production room.

Mr Musenge said repeatedly that people needed to appreciate what ZNBC was doing.

The entourage went on to sample the offering of the production rooms of eight local languages.

Mr Musenge said the media had the fundamental role to report the negative and positive aspect of Government activities effectively underlining the relevance of media independence.

The minister explained it was futile for the Government to operate in isolation without the formidable participation of the media.

His visit to ZNBC, in his own words, was simply designed to foster amicable relationship with media personnel and strengthen the desired relationship to foster development.

Mr Musenge then visited the Times of Zambia offices in Kitwe, where he expressed surprise that the newspaper was being powered by a thin workforce that managed to record positive results.

He was impressed that the paper has managed to score high points in the paper sales.

Times of Zambia Kitwe office acting chief reporter, Maya Ntanda was at hand to explain the positive operations of various departments of her office.

The minister expressed confidence in the newspaper and later informed Daily Mail bureau chief Jerry Munthali that he was impressed with improved quality of the paper, saying this was so because the PF administration has allowed the print and electronic media to operate freely and independently.

"My office is free for you to report in any interference in the operations of your newspapers," he told Mr Munthali.

Mr Musenge however expressed profound concern at the high rate of Daily Mail newspaper returns, saying this was a bad signal to market.

Mr Munthali assured the minister that the management was in the process of acquiring company printing press equipment that would reverse late newspaper arrival on the market.

Only well-informed journalists have to stand up for the public interest to make the Government policies a reality for the benefit of ordinary Zambians.

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