Saturday, March 24, 2007

Malupenga calls for protection of whistle-blowers in corruption fight

Malupenga calls for protection of whistle-blowers in corruption fight
By Patson Chilemba
Saturday March 24, 2007 [02:00]

POST managing editor Amos Malupenga has said the protection of whistle-blowers is key in the fight against corruption. And Evelyn Hone College journalism lecturer Ceasar Jere has said there is need to scale up the training of journalists in investigative journalism. Meanwhile, freelance journalist Dickson Jere said it would be important for journalists to do more than relying on handouts and leakages in the fight against corruption.

Featuring on a Transparency International Zambia-sponsored programme on ZNBC television on Thursday under the theme, "Are media practitioners doing enough to expose corruption?", Malupenga said although a lot was being done by the media practitioners in exposing corruption, a lot more still needed to be done. He said for now, it would be illogical to condemn public media houses for not doing enough in exposing corruption because most of it involved senior government officials who they could not expose for obvious reasons. He said until public media had the necessary editorial independence from the government, it would not be possible for them to effectively participate in the fight against corruption.

However, Malupenga said The Post still counted on public media personnel as good partners in the fight against corruption. "Sometimes these colleagues give us very useful tips which end up in big stories when we follow them up," he said. Malupenga also said there was need to focus more on protecting whistle-blowers if the fight against corruption was to be won. He said at the moment, the whistle-blowers were very vulnerable because there were no legal provisions in place to protect them. "We all know that the whistle-blower is not protected because we see how people panic to trace the source of information when sensitive information is published," Malupenga. "Their concern is not to establish whether or not what is leaked is true. They just want to know the person who leaked the information so they can victimise or harass them for being responsible citizens."

Malupenga urged patriotic citizens from all corners of Zambia to report cases of corruption because The Post could not be everywhere at the same time to pick up such information. Malupenga said investigating corruption was not an easy task and that was why the co-operation of all well-meaning citizens was required. He was commenting on Dickson Jere who said The Post had not done much in terms of follow-ups after exposing the land saga in the Ministry of Lands. Jere said there was too much reliance on official statements and also leaked documents like letters which formed the bulk of what was termed as investigative journalism. He called on journalists to do more investigations independent of leakages if the fight against corruption was to be meaningful.

But Malupenga said The Post always conducted its own investigations which might not yield the desired results as quickly as some people might wish. "But that is the nature of investigations," he said. "And we don't want to ignore anything because sometimes a small leaked letter can end up as a very big story depending how things are handled. On the land issue, our investigations have continued but we are mindful that the government's investigative wings are carrying out their own investigations so we have to move carefully in order not to prejudice those investigations. When we are ready to publish something, we will do that."

Dickson further said the protection of whistle-blowers was cardinal and therefore deliberate efforts should be put in place to introduce laws meant to protect them from victimisation by perpetrators of corruption. He said current happenings in the country in as far as the fight against corruption was concerned showed how vulnerable the whistle-blower was as some people had lost jobs for blowing the whistle. And Ceaser Jere said investigative reporting was not something that could be achieved overnight. He said there was need to scale up investigative reporting and training in the country if Zambians were to look up to the media in the fight against corruption.



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