The broadcasting media is very delicate if mishandled- President Lungu

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Zambia will tomorrow, 3rd May 2020, join the rest of the world commemorate World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), and President Edgar Lungu has applauded the media for carrying out its important role to educate and inform the nation, especially in the face of the deadly coronavirus.

In his speech to mark the day, on the eve of the WPFD, President Lungu however, alleged that the multiplication of television channels has equally seen a plethora of challenges, like unethical journalism.

Lungu said it is disappointing today that the media has failed to come up with a media council, a body that would have cleaned up unprofessionalism in the media.

“Failure to form this media body, coupled with the advent of social media, has meant people failing to distinguish a journalist from other ordinary communicators. And until journalists realise the importance of a media council, they will continue to grumble as social media activists continue to take up their space,” he said.

He added that the country has seen a deterioration of ethical journalism, saying this is partly, as a result of the new media companies hiring untrained personnel to run newsrooms.

“Broadcasting is a very delicate media matter if mishandled, words said on television and radio could plunge a country into civil strife,” he said.

“In newspapers we have seen same sources being quoted over and over again and their agendas dictating coverage. Conversely, we have seen newspapers using such sources to foster their agenda. The recruitment of untrained staff is directly related to the next challenge,” he added.

Lungu said while the media has expanded in the country, the commercial side remains troubled as a result of few companies ready to give these companies business in terms of advertising.

“It is a fact that there are very few companies willing to advertise on these media platforms. It is because of this challenge that media companies are unable to raise enough revenue to employ trained personnel.

“Untrained journalists then demand that their sources pay them for coverage. This, in itself, compromises these journalists as they cannot report objectively,” he said.

Lungu also said political influence is also playing part in corrupting the media, by influencing coverage.

“The news and programmes of these media organisations are skewed towards propagating the agenda of their political sponsors. These sponsored media are utterly biased and no amount of good can be written about other political players even if they did anything positive,” he said.

Generaly he thanked the media for playing their part in the fight against the pandemic.

“You are very critical in this fight because, your accurate reporting and analysis of the situation we are in, is key in uniting all of us as we fight the COVID-19.

“More importantly, I would like to praise you for your commitment to duty as you continue to inform and educate masses during this difficult time as we, as a country, and the whole world, fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

He said the Patriotic Front Government has invested massively in the development of the media with the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting standing out in the quest to develop the media in Zambia.

The digitisation of the media in Zambia has given way to the plurality of media channels.

“Conversely, the operationalisation of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has been a milestone that has seen the licensing of over a hundred broadcasting houses in Zambia,” he said.

“Currently, there are 39 licensed television companies, and 134 radio stations. This development has not just seen the employment of our young people in these companies, but has seen the plurality of voices in the media and the media has become a real marketplace of ideas. We have also witnessed quality picture and sound because of the digitisation of broadcasting,” he added.

Meanwhile, this year’s commemoration has come just a few months after President Lungu’s government has closed one of the country’s biggest private television station, Prime TV, for allegedly declining to air coronavirus messages for free.

The station later apologised to the government and started broadcasting the messages, but, the government which has a history of not tolerating dissent voices, went ahead to revoke the station’s operating licence through the IBA. The move was roundly condemned by some sections of the society.

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31