Thursday, June 28, 2007
Thursday June 28, 2007 [04:00]
WE have never claimed to possess the monopoly of wisdom and we will never do so. While we derive great experience from the exercise of our functions as journalists, we do not have the privilege of being – nor could we be – specialists in all political, economic and social spheres.
We are basically journalists – in itself one of the most difficult and dangerous tasks in today’s troubled world – and above all we must be responsible ones. We know, moreover, and have borne this in mind, that as journalists, we are as a rule reluctant to talk or write about things which are not perfectly clear to us. We are aware that our nation takes an enormous variety of widely differing beliefs and perceptions. We have, however, one thing in common: our responsibility to ensure that the affairs of our country are managed in an efficient, effective, orderly and honest manner.
We particularly have in common our national economic interests; the overwhelming problems of accumulated poverty and backwardness. We also share the bitter feeling of impotence that our people have in the face of such problems and the concern of all of them for the political instability to which these problems may give rise.
So gloomy are the realities and prospects for the future as a whole that they could generate pessimism and discouragement if we were not sure of our aims. They are an inevitably bitter pill to swallow, but if we are to face up to the realities, we first have to become aware of them.
We do not have, nor do we think anyone has, magic remedies for such difficult, complex and apparently insoluble problems. History shows, however, that no problem has ever been solved until it has become a tangible reality of which everyone is aware. We have to face our problems in an honest way.
It is not a lie, a falsehood, a personal vendetta to say that Frederick Chiluba abused the authority entrusted in him to preside over the affairs of this country for 10 years as president. It is not a lie to say that Chiluba abused public funds, stole public resources. There is no malice in stating this. This is not an insult on Chiluba because this is something he did and we can prove it and it has been proved by others in the London High Court.
Corruption is a cancer that we all need to put our efforts together and uproot from the face of our country. Just look at how much injustice corruption is doing to this country in all areas of human endeavour. We are not saying Chiluba is the only thief or corrupt person in this country. But Chiluba was president of this country, the highest position in the land demanding the highest level of trust, honest and integrity. He didn’t have any of these.
Saviour Chishimba who is today accusing Levy Mwanawasa of being corrupt should do what we did and prove to everyone that Mwanawasa is corrupt. We have never spared Levy from criticism whenever we can justify it.
We were the first people to challenge Levy over the University of Zambia land he had appropriated. We also questioned and denounced the fraudulent manner in which he was elected in 2001 using state funds. We have questioned, more than anyone else, Levy’s holding on to the MMD automobiles that were found to have been acquired with stolen public funds.
We denounced Levy for dishonestly entering a nolle prosequi in favour of his corrupt friend Kashiwa Bulaya. We also worked to ensure that Levy was not allowed to drop the corruption proceedings against Chiluba in the London High Court when he wanted to do so under pressure from some of his friends.
We are currently haranguing Levy on the constitution review process. There is only one thing that we have not done: that is to accuse Levy of having stolen public funds simply because we don’t have any evidence to that effect. It will be interesting to see what evidence of corruption Chishimba has against Levy.
And we therefore urge Levy to commence defamation proceedings in our civil courts against Chishimba so that the nation can know the truth about his corruption, if any. And it will be interesting as well to see how Chishimba will defend himself when we commence libel or slander proceedings against him for alleging or insinuating that The Post and its editor are corrupt.
In saying all this, we do not claim as Chishimba alleges, to be the alpha and the omega on every issue in our country. But we shouldn’t forget that to govern is to communicate. As modern societies grow in size and complexity, the arena for communication and public debate is increasingly dominated by the news media: radio and television, newspapers, magazines, books, even computerised data bases.
The news media in a democracy have a number of overlapping but distinctive functions. One is to inform and educate. To make intelligence decisions about public policy, people need accurate, timely information. But because opinions diverge, they also need access to a wide range of viewpoints and they must rely on newspapers and television to explain the issues.
The other function of the news media is to serve as a watchdog over government and other powerful institutions and individuals in society. By holding a standard of independence and objectivity, however imperfectly, the news media can expose the truth behind the claims of those in power or in strong positions and hold public officials accountable for their actions.
If they choose, the media can also take a more active role in public debate. Through editorials and investigative reporting, the media can campaign for specific policies or reforms that they feel should be enacted. They can also serve as a forum for organisations and individuals to express their opinions through letters to the editor and the printing of articles with divergent points of view.
Commentators point to another increasingly important role for the media: “Setting the agenda.” Since they can’t report everything, the news media must choose which issues to report and which ones to ignore. In short, they decide what is news and what isn’t. These decisions, in turn, influence the public’s perception of what issues are most important. But they can’t simply manipulate or disregard issues at will because their competitors, after all, are free to call attention to their own list of important things.
Few would argue that the news media always carry out these functions responsibly. But there is no other solution to this other than to broaden the level of public discourse so that citizens can better sift through the chaff of misinformation and rhetoric to find the kernels of truth. The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.
This is the approach we take towards our work. We have given other people like Chishimba the right to be heard; we have even published their falsities against us. We wonder if any of them were in our position would do the same to us. We have seen what media organisations that are close to them do – they don’t give their opponents similar treatment as we do. We do this with the full conviction that we cannot be brought down by their lies, falsities and cheap propaganda against us.
What haven’t we been accused of by these characters? How else can they defend the wrong doings, the corruption and thefts of public funds by Chiluba and his tandem of thieves if not by lies, falsehoods and calumny? They can go on mobilising weak and desperate souls in an attempt to try and defend an equally desperate Chiluba but it won’t do. There is no filth of corruption that one can successfully stick on us.
We do not claim to be saints – we are far way from that – but we can state with confidence that we have conducted ourselves with sufficient honour and integrity as journalists over the last 16 years of our newspaper. And this is what the enemies of our newspaper cannot forgive – our integrity and honour; this is what those who have chosen to defend thieves – for whatever reason- cannot forgive. We will never hire ourselves out, like some journalists have done, to defend thieves or surrender ourselves to thieves.
We will never allow ourselves to be guided or directed by the standards set by thieves and their defenders – we have our own standards. We will confront every difficulty; political or other kinds of attack as we have done over the last 16 years. We will keep moving ahead. Our newspaper will go on winning new laurels and scoring new victories and nothing and nobody can ever stop us.
They will choke with envy as we continue to make progress in all areas of our activities. They are used to dealing with timid people, with corrupt people, but we serve notice on them – and they should know, after 16 years of dealing with us, that we mean what we say – that our newspaper will never hire itself out, sell out, or surrender to thieves. We have made great progress since our launch on July 26,1991, and we will continue to do so, but it won’t be easy and we know it won’t be easy.
We are prepared to meet difficulties. We have difficulties now, and we will even have greater ones in the future, even if we do things the right way, even if it calls for our greatest effort. We have to cope with objective problems of the political situation in our country that has been greatly compounded by corruption, and the increasing hatred for us by the corrupt that we have caused serious problems, that are now allayed before the law not only in our country but also abroad and are starting to dance to the tune of the consequences of their crimes. We never sent Chiluba to steal. If anything, we were always there advising him to avoid corruption.
Regardless of our limitations and defects, our country is today better because we are there and as a result of our work. For us, a sense of justice, dignity, self respect and love for one’s country and fellow citizens have a great deal to do with one’s happiness as have moral principles. Our maturity, seriousness, wisdom, honesty and courage give us a feeling of security and great confidence in the future. And in whatever we do, we always make sure we have the law on our side.
If highly educated people like Chishimba can stand up and defend crime, can stand up and defend thieves, then one should know that corruption has taken root in a country, and may require a lot of effort to eradicate or stamp out. In short, for the first time we are faced with a question of whether or not we can get out of this corruption or even survive it. We say this because corruption kills.
But, no matter how enormous the difficulties, no matter how complex the task, there can be no room for pessimism. This will be to renounce all hope and resign ourselves to the final defeat. We have no alternative but to struggle against these evils, trusting in the great moral and intellectual capacity of our people and in their instincts for self-preservation, if we wish to harbour any hope for survival.
Only with a tremendous effort and the moral and intellectual support of all can we face a future that objectively appears desperate and sombre. We hope that our modest efforts may help create this awareness, which is why we are always grateful to all those who are kind and patient enough to read what we publish, especially those who excuse our shortcomings and deficiencies.