Djokotoe Puts Local Journalists to the Sword

Veteran journalist Edem Djokotoe has remained on the case of local journalists for being locked up to mediocre coverage of news given the manner they handled the fall of Robert Mugabe’s story that is on the Zambian doorstep.

Djokotoe was particularly riled that national broadcaster ZNBC had to tap into international networks like Aljazeera for the story when they could have told it first-hand.

The media trainer cum consultant has shown his impatience with mediocrity demanding more from the statement obsessed local scribes.


In 2012, the Kenyan journalist, Tom Mboya and his cameraman, Evanson Nyaga, won the CNN African Journalist of the Year award. Their entry, selected from 1,799 others from 42 countries, was a most remarkable piece of journalism. A story about a long-forgotten and little-known tribe of Kikuyus deep in the heart of Gujarat country in India.

To get the story, both men, working for Citizen TV in Nairobi, flew to India and then travelled hundreds of kilometres by road to find the tribe living on the fringes of society, despised and considered lower than the lowest caste. The British took members of the tribe there to work as cheap labour decades earlier when they had a colonial presence in Kenya, used them and abandoned them.

End of Empire and India’s own independence did little to transform the fortunes of these people.
In spite of the years that had passed, they still spoke Gikuyu and maintained some of the traditions of their motherland in song and dance.

Mboya and Nyaga’s story also won the award for Best Television Feature. The judges were almost unanimous in agreeing that the two men had invested effort and passion into their work, going way beyond the call of duty to tell a story that had gone untold for many years. Having watched the report and seen what kind of logistical challenges it must have posed, I am inclined to agree with the judges.

But most importantly, it proves that when you invest in a good story, the results will inevitably show.

Why am I dredging all this up five years after the fact? For a number of reasons but I will stick to one. Apart from the fact that the awards ceremony in question was held at the Government Complex in Lusaka and was co-hosted by ZNBC’s own Franklin Tembo Jr, it helps me prove a point I made on this very wall earlier this week—that news is an expensive business, that you won’t know the facts until you spend money to get boots on the ground, even if it means climbing mountains and crossing rivers. That’s how you get to give people a sense of what is going on, which is what news should be.

Two days before the awards ceremony, ZNBC had hosted a breakfast for the judges, some contestants and a selected number of guests at Protea Hotel, Cairo Road. I was privileged to be among the guests, having been invited because I had just finished conducting a month of training for the Corporation’s TV news reporters, looking at ways in which they could make reporting more incisive and more responsive to public interest.

During the breakfast, ZNBC Director-General at the time, Chibamba Kanyama, challenged the local journalists in attendance to do the kind of stories that won awards and brought glory to Zambian journalism.

Of course, Mr. Kanyama has since moved on, but the Corporation is still there—and this week, finds itself in the eye of a professional storm because it did not respond editorially to what will go down as one of the biggest stories of the decade.

The ousting of Robert Mugabe from the helms of state in neighbouring Zimbabwe after 37 years in charge.
Instead it settled for reporting the story by remote control, monitoring what the major international networks were saying about a story that was happening under 500 kilometres away in Harare.

No matter what kind of spin anybody puts on what did not happen and why, there is no excuse for not sending a news crew to Harare. And for that Posterity will remain eternally harsh in its indictment.


  1. mailon

    Personally i can only say Mr Djokoto you are a brave man.How do you manage to watch Dead NBC without smashing the TV?I cant remember when i last watched it and i have been contemplating suing them to challenge their TV levy which should be paid by PF.Even if they had done a good job i was not going to know.

  2. Kabamba

    Each time I tune to znbc I feel down-trodden and embarrassed .Most of the news that is there is from lusaka and it’s filled with commercial breaks no essence of news.This is the worst channel on earth.Indeed only a chinese company could invest in such a glorified playhouse.Everything is disorganised.Shame.

  3. nineo

    Mr Djokoto, firstly the heading this article is inaccurate as your comments really are focused, and rightly so, on Dead NBC. I would like to state to you that you forgot one fact the resulted to their uncalled for reporting action;

    The PF government was opposed to the goings on in Zimbabwe that led to the ousting of Mugabe and so ensured the same was not covered on the station! i guess it is a simple as “you do not bite the finger that is feeding you?”

  4. Jahman

    media houses shud be screend like thy did 2 teachers

  5. Lolo

    We just watch reports on what the government has done and nothing else. The news which resembles campaign fake promise. May u tell them all

  6. Kalok

    I cannot agree more. I am even sick of reading reports that will simply reproduce a statement or regurgitate another news media’s information. Isn’t it small wonder we are struggling to raise salaries for our local news networks!??? Thank you Edem for your qualified observation.

  7. Gwede Kente

    Mr Djokoto DeadNBC just proved how dead they were with that ‘coverage’. I wonder how DeadNBC is expected to be professional when it is managed unprofessionally. For as long asThe Minister of Information is in charge of DeadNBC we should not expect anything they do to be professional. They will always do a story with the owner in mind. They will also give the excuse that they have no financing because anything run by government can’t run profitably. The solution is not in holding workshops that will be ” looking at ways in which they could make reporting more incisive and more responsive to public interest.” Whatever is learnt in that workshop will not be effected because the minister and her government are not Journalists. They can’t run a news media but they are so stubborn they don’t want to hand media to the professionals. Talking about how dissapointed you are with DeadNBC is a waste of time.

  8. Sj

    Where ‘ve all the standrds gone to in this country? (With the IMPERIALISTS?) Tourists still cherished visitig Zimbabwe dispite the country being under a so called dictator.
    TOURISTS could be heard advising each other that they were NOW in Zimbabwe where laws should be followed to the letter! And it was True.
    As for Tv licence ZNBC is doing a dis-service to charge a levy @ all! Someone review this levy that has choked us for years on end.
    The Water utility company ‘n’ ZESCO, charge us for their meters use THEY installed in our vicinity as for ZNBC THEY simply enjoy collecting where they’ve failed to sow.
    When Kabila( current DRC President’s fahter) was killed in neighbouring Congo, BBC REPORTED it almost a few hours of its happening meanwhile, ZNBC took one week to only confirm reports of his death.
    Congo being a neighbour and a stone’s throw from us! Is this what you call sovreignity of states? Journalists gathering of news is not easily admirable any more.
    Gone are days when families gathered around the television set @ 19hrs to receive first hand news for oneself.

  9. Boko Haram

    Better I watch Islamic channel than znbc because the graphic is bad very bad and the fake news so guys Ba zesco you will refund my levys I’m not joking.

  10. Eddie Ngoma

    this is true and it should worry all journalists in Zambia both from the public and private institutions especially that Harare is in the range of about 500 meters. it is time Zambian Journalist made international names, I want to congratulate Paul Shalala for the award.

  11. Bliss Noise

    Very true and brave statement there. It worries and annoys me watching a Zambian story or documentary for Zambia covered by a foreign media and journalists; where are our own media peopl? Some of our media people even fail or unable to cover rural stories.

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