Saturday, November 07, 2009

Self-regulation is the best, says Kapeya

Self-regulation is the best, says Kapeya
By Kabanda Chulu
Sat 07 Nov. 2009, 04:00 CAT

PARLIAMENTARY committee on information and broadcasting services chairperson Mwansa Kapeya has said self-regulation as opposed to external regulation is the best form of regulating the media.

And Kapeya, who is also Mpika Central member of parliament, suggested that the Media Ethics Council of Zambia (MECOZ) must be given an opportunity to gain legitimacy from its stakeholders by ensuring that any type of regulation originates from the media practitioners.

And Bweengwa member of parliament Highvie Hamududu has said the threats of statutory regulation by the MMD government are a sign of inferiority complex and challenged the government to start its own newspaper if they are getting negative coverage.

Moving a motion in Parliament for the adoption of the report of his committee on Thursday, Kapeya said there was need to put in place measures that would enhance the positive contribution of the media to national stability and economic development.

“Mr Speaker, your committee were informed that there already existed a number of laws that restricted the media and these include the radio and telecommunications Act which sets very high fees at US $40,000 for a 3B licence for internet service providers and this undermines the development of non-traditional media (new media, blogs, audio and video streaming), the broadcasting Act, preservation of public security Act, the state security Act and official secrets Act and the Penal Code Cap 87 of the Laws of Zambia,” Kapeya said.

“Your committee recommend that the first step in enhancing the positive contribution of the media to national stability and economic development is to review these laws and bring them in tandem with the current political dispensation and worldwide media reforms.”

He proposed that MECOZ should work towards gaining credibility and acceptance among media institutions who must then give it the necessary mandate and means of enforcing professionalism.

“As regards strengthening MECOZ, your committee recommend that since international best practice on media regulation suggests that self regulation, as opposed to external regulation, is the best form of regulating the media,” Kapeya said. “Hence the MECOZ must be given an opportunity to gain legitimacy from its stakeholders by ensuring that any type of regulation originates with the media practitioners themselves.”

He said the media must play its watchdog role by exposing issues of corruption in public institutions and also highlight and expose developmental issues.
“Unfortunately, the media in general (public and private) has not done enough to contribute to the political stability and economic development of the nation due to lack of training and appreciation of the current political and economic landscape as well as undue influence exerted by shareholders on the editorial policy and content,” Kapeya said. “So we recommend that media houses must train their staff and shareholders must place national interests above those of their own and economic expediency.”

Kapeya said the media tended to get caught up in the political web of personal and petty accusations by the political players at the expense of providing in-depth analyses.
He said the perception of the media by the public during election campaigns was two-fold.

“There is this view that government-controlled media is used to portray a working government and to create that the opposition were just a bunch of noise makers who seize every available moment to stifle government operations. The other view is that the private media worked as a tool for unearthing certain unacceptable government activities, furthermore, the private media, had come to be viewed as an ally of the public which is relied upon to keep government in check,” Kapeya said.

“We therefore recommend that in order for the private media not to have an excuse for always reporting negatively about government, the public media should be seen to be balanced in their reporting. They should be willing to criticise and expose government weaknesses instead of leaving this to private media who may overdo it.”

He said from lessons learnt from what had transpired in the region, it was not entirely the media that directly instigated violence that occurred in some countries.

“It was actually the politicians who used the media, useful as it might be, is a dangerous tool if placed in the hands of non-professionals, especially during election time when political tensions are high,” said Kapeya. “Therefore, we recommend that the media, in reflecting events to society as they unfold, should be cognisant of the fact that it is not what they report that matters but how they report it.”

Debating the report, Bangweulu member of parliament Joseph Kasongo said the tendency by those in the private media who think they were above the law must be stopped since they even condemn Parliament and the Judiciary.

“In the eyes of those journalists, everything is rotten, including the Judiciary, Legislature and the Executive, does it mean those journalists are very wise to impose ideas on others? We should not use democracy to insult others and if those journalists cannot restrain themselves then they should be controlled because they should not continue calling others useless especially that we leaders are popularly elected,” Kasongo said. “In other countries, the media enhances peace and stability and not enticing people to rise against government through honking and other activities and when others got arrested, the people at this media institution ran away and hid in embassies of foreign countries.”

However, Mandevu parliamentarian Jean Kapata, wanted to rise on a point of order but Speaker Amusaa Mwanamwambwa ignored her and allowed Kasongo to continue debating.

Kasongo said this private media institution only wrote insults and politics and one could only find something useful in the 'Sangwapo' pages.
“From page one it is politics and insults, when you turn the pages, the Judiciary is rotten, useful things are only found in the 'Sangwapo' pages and you feel the pain when insulted as a human being especially when popularly elected,” said Kasongo. “Those calling for self-regulation should rethink because I will never support such media that incite people to rise against government since I am a great believer in peace.”

But Hamududu argued that media regulation would backfire on the government officials when they leave office.

“The same media they want to bring down they will need when out of power and this is a sign of inferiority complex by the MMD government and if they feel that only negative coverage is painted at them, let them start their own newspaper that can articulate their views and compete on the basis of ideas,” said Hamududu.

And Bahati parliamentarian Besa Chimbaka said some media institutions were just focused on insulting so that anarchy could prevail in the country.
Chongwe MMD member of parliament Sylvia Masebo said she supported self-regulation of the media as opposed to statutory regulation.

Masebo said while the media could sometimes be irritating, especially when they reported wrong information, statutory regulation was not the answer to the many challenges and shortcomings of the media. She said the media was a powerful tool that could build or destroy and urged journalists to practice responsible journalism.

She urged the government not to listen to some opposition members of parliament who were pushing for the statutory regulation of the media just because they had personal battles to wage with the media.

She said free media were important because they keep leaders on their toes.
“When we decide to become public figures, we open ourselves to the public scrutiny so we can't run away from the media. The media helps us to become better leaders because we do not want to attract wrong headlines because we have stolen or we are corrupt,” said Masebo.

Livingstone ULP member of parliament Sakwiba Sikota declared that he was “a blood relative” of the media and his contributions in defence of media freedoms had been consistent.
He said self-regulation was the only way out for the media and urged all media houses to support it.

He said all over the world, the media was regulated, either by self or statute.
Sikota said if some media houses would attempt to frustrate efforts by other media organisations in pushing for self-regulation, the government would have no choice but to impose statutory regulation to ensure that the fish that ran away from the pond was caught.

Sikota said in that case, the government would not be blamed because it will have given the media an opportunity at self-regulation.

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