Thinking out loud: ZNBC – politically captured or bum-licking?

Filed under: Special Comments |

By Yona Musukwa

Broadcasting must serve the interest of national development; it must play a pivotal role in helping us shape and develop a better society.

During the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day last week, none other than Catholic Priest and media practitioner, Fr Andrew Mukosa, captured this perspective better: “A free, independent and critical media is the only voice and tool the majority are left with in Zambia”

Central to the success of a functioning democracy are the principles of openness and transparency.  That entails a society based on free flow of information and a culture of open debate. At the core of democracy lies the recognition of the right of all citizens to take part in society’s decision-making process. This requires that individuals are armed with the necessary information and have access to the contesting options they require to make informed choices.

An ignorant society cannot be democratic. Without a free flow of information, chiefly through the free media, power abuse goes unexposed, unchecked and unpunished. The truth gets covered up or distorted. The result is that people cannot make informed decisions, and they cannot hold their leaders to account at the ballot box.

Therefore, it’s not by mistake or fashion that the media is referred to as the “fourth estate”. The origins of the concept “fourth estate” is attributed to Edmund Burke who used it in a parliamentary debate in Britain, 1787, on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons. The “fourth estate” (that sat in the reporters gallery), Burke said, is more important, far than the three arms of the state that had gathered in parliament, (The first three estates being Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary) as part of society’s checks and balances!

Similarly Nelson Mandela recognised the importance of this back in 1994. Speaking to the International Press Institute Congress he said:

“No single person, no body of opinion, no political or religious doctrine, no political party or government can claim to have a monopoly on truth… It has therefore always been our contention that laws, mores, practices and prejudices that place constraints on freedom of expression are a disservice to society.”

The ZNBC is by far the most important media structure in Zambia, with 3 TV and 3 radio stations. Its reach and coverage surpasses any other media institution and it should plays a central role in our democracy by keeping people well informed and giving them a voice.

Unfortunately, ln more ways than one, ZNBC is still far from fulfilling its mandate.  We continue to see the persistent manifestation of nefarious practises. Without venturing into unfounded allegations, the reality is that ZNBC is a politically captured institution. Over and above ZNBC is a bum-licking institution, seeking to appease a jury of politicians. It has been turned into a party broadcaster rather than a public broadcaster.

By far the worst is the presentation of news. Much of the news reporting is highly selective; simply cheering the party in government. And malignant attacks, innuendo, rumour mongering, and outright slander against the people who hold contrary views to those in power.

This is unhealthy. This has to change. ZNBC ought to be the voice of all Zambians and reflect Zambian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity; giving real meaning to media freedom.



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