According to the IBA, the decision to suspend the private broadcaster’s licence is because of its “unprofessional broadcasting”. The IBA further went on to instruct Prime TV to conduct in-house trainings in basic journalism and script writing.
This broadcast licence suspension has reminded us of the many wrongs going on in today’s media. However, what our colleagues at Prime TV must learn from this scenario is the fact that the media can make or break, it can set a country ablaze through careless reporting.
In any setup, the media must be allowed to conduct its duties without any fear but media freedom should not be a cover for media abuse. Let’s remember that the bigger responsibility lies in the media itself, and in this case Prime TV, to ensure that the basics of journalism are followed and they must bear the biggest blame. Veering away from this will always attract sanctions, either from regulators or the consumers of news themselves. Prime TV and all others in the media mustn’t forget the happenings of the recent past in Rwanda where genocide was fanned by the media. And also take a look at what was coming out of Zimbabwe a few months ago! Online media was littered with claims of killings with accompanying pictures. But some of those pictures weren’t a true reflection of what was happening in Zimbabwe!
One thing that many of the people will agree with is the fact that today’s journalism has been infiltrated by all sorts of rogues. What is even more worrying is the fact that those who have been practicing journalism for a very long time have relegated the profession to mere caderism and the institutions they run are being used as channels upon which they can push their political agendas. This is a fact! Many of you know what we are talking about.
In Zambia today, we have media institutions that have newsrooms run by officials of political formations. In such scenarios, forget about credibility!
In Zambia today, we have journalists who, without shame, publicly declare their political preferences on social media platforms like Facebook. What happened to neutrality?
In Zambia today, we have journalists who will demand payment even for things like giving interviews to civil society organisations on the state of the media in the country!
What our journalists must get back to are the common elements of good journalism such as the obligation to tell the truth (how many are ready to do this?); loyalty to citizens (how often is this done); discipline of verification (do we always verify what we see flying around on social media); serving as an independent monitor of power (how dedicated are we to this?); providing a forum for public criticism and compromise (do we allow others to criticize our work, pointing out where we have gone or done wrong?); striving to keep the significant interesting and relevant (how relevant is what we churn out to our readers, listeners and viewers); keeping the news comprehensive and proportional (do we take time to go deeper into a story to tell it all?) and the exercise of personal conscience (do we ever put to use personal judgment on what does or doesn’t qualify as a news story?). This simple guideline will help save the profession. What must happen is constant training and retraining of journalists and editors on the basics of the journalism profession.
This way, suspensions of licences can be avoided.
Regulators do, and can, suspend media licenses when the institutions fail to meet requirements. It has happened before in the UK when the Sun Newpaper was suspended for similar reasons.