Friday, November 26, 2010

UPND and media

UPND and media
By The Post
Fri 26 Nov. 2010, 04:00 CAT

IN life it is necessary to be clear about things.

When one is clear about things, it’s easier to realise that life is not just about entitlements. It is also easy for one to take responsibility for their decisions and actions. Clarity helps us to know what to do and what not to do. This is necessary in every sphere of life and much more so in politics.

Politics is about engaging the people all the time. No meaningful politics can be carried out without contact with the masses of our people. This means making a those who have chosen politics as a means of their contribution to our country should understand what that calling demands. Politicians must be astute and very careful in the way that they engage the public. Communication is the daily currency of all their transactions. And this is why it is said that to govern is to communicate. To make intelligent decisions about public policy, people need information. This is especially important during election campaigns when candidates must explain their positions on various issues.

It is important that politicians learn to engage the various sections of society in a way that makes their communication relevant. By this we mean that politicians should understand who they are dealing with at every point of their interaction with the public.

There is a way of communicating with an ordinary man on the street and another way of dealing with a journalist in the news media. An ordinary man in the street will receive communication for himself and his own consumption whereas a journalist is a receptacle for the public at large. He or she receives the information for the purpose of processing it and relaying it so that the public is well-informed.

This therefore means that what a politician says to a journalist, he or she is saying to the whole world. The attitude that a politician shows to a journalist is the attitude that he would like portrayed to the world about himself. These are basic things that we need not explain.

But it seems there are people who do not understand that it is not our job as journalists to be their public relations officers. If they would like to do public relations, they should find a better way of doing it. They can even employ journalists to work for them if that is what they want; to run party propaganda newspapers for them.

And since some of them are very rich and with the best experience in running business, this shouldn’t be a problem.

The behaviour of UPND is not surprising although it still is disappointing. We would have expected that by now they have gained some experience in politics and should therefore be in a position to take responsibility for their own failure or even success. Trying to blame The Post for their political problems will not take them anywhere.

It won’t even help them politically because The Post is not a political party. Clearly, the UPND has been trying to find ways of blaming The Post for its lethargy and failure to read the political mood in the country correctly.

We say this because for a long time now the UPND has resorted to insulting The Post every time they are unhappy with a story that it carries. In fact for a long time they were in the habit of denying stories that they gave and instead accused The Post of misquoting them.

Their members of parliament have been in the habit of using the cover of Parliament to say things against the newspaper and its editors that they could not say outside knowing that they would be sued for defamation. They have also resorted to blaming The Post for all the problems that they are facing in their pact with the PF.

To them, The Post is their biggest political problem – their “first enemy”. They never stop to ask what the real problem is with their politics. They are in a perpetual victim mentality, looking for somebody to blame for all their misfortunes. The Post’s coverage of UPND has never been appreciated.

Instead they are always looking for things to complain about. They have always accused us of not covering them. Notwithstanding that they behave like a secret society that does not want to share its political diary.

Even the President of the country Rupiah Banda tells us where he is going or what he is doing so that we can cover him if we so desire. If he didn’t tell us we probably would not cover most of the things that he is doing. But UPND expects us to be magicians to know what they are doing without any meaningful communication that enables us to plan.

Anyway they should know that we are tired of the insults that they keep piling on us for the way that we cover them. They have failed to weigh themselves correctly as newsmakers. Their value on the newsstand is not what they think it is. The news medium loses nothing by not carrying a story about UPND.

They are not anywhere near the highest selling news. And they shouldn’t forget that the core business of the news media is to collect news, process it and sell it. We are not a propaganda newsletter for people with inflated egos. We don’t push news down the throats of our readers; we give them what they want to read. And this is why today The Post is the largest circulating newspaper in our country.

The problem with trying to cover UPND is that they complain about everything. When you miss an event that they did not inform you about, they complain. When you cover them they still find something to complain about. They are not ashamed to complain about where the picture of their president appeared in the newspaper in comparison to other newsmakers.

If their president was selling the papers as much as other newsmakers do why would The Post not cover him the way he wants to be covered. In other words it is up to their party to find a way of communicating effectively. It is not for The Post to help them to communicate.

In fact the coverage that UPND is receiving from the entire Zambian news media is far more than the party deserves given its size and its communication strategies, which are abysmal. This is a party that on its own will count for nothing in next year’s elections.

We are saying this because this is a party whose president has publicly told the nation that on his own him and his party cannot win next year’s elections. And given this position it should be clear to all that this party should not be expected to field a winning presidential candidate next year. It is not a party, which will seriously contest the presidency of this country next year. If it does, it will just be as a spoiler.

The only way of survival for UPND is through alliances or pacts with the MMD or PF. Without an alliance with either MMD or PF-UPND will not be a factor in next year’s elections. This leaves this country with two serious contenders for the presidency in next year’s elections – Rupiah of the MMD and Michael Sata of PF. And there is no way, even if there was to be an alliance between UPND and MMD, Hakainde Hichilema is going to be a presidential candidate. Equally, if the PF/UPND pact is to succeed there is no way Hakainde is going to be the presidential candidate of that pact.

There is no sensible criteria one will use to adopt Hakainde as a presidential candidate over Rupiah or Michael. Of course many permutations have been floated – Michael dying of heart attack before the elections or George Kunda blocking him by the constitutional amendments.

This is not politics but sorcery! So whichever way one looks at the matter it is clear that UPND is not what it thinks it is. It is up to them to deal with the political realities that face them. It is not about The Post coverage or lack of it.

Anyway, it is up to them to now go to those media organisations that cover them fairly and adequately and leave us alone. We are not government funded. We don’t draw any funds from the taxpayers coffers. We cannot be UPND or anybody’s mouthpiece. We write what we like.
UPND has forgotten that no one has fought their battles more than we have. Even in ingratitude there has to be realism and honesty. Today the UPND can try to assault Post journalists.

They have forgotten that we have been waging a battle on their behalf over the Mufumbwe violence. We have been defending them consistently. We are the only ones who have been calling for justice over the assault of one of their key leaders, Charles Kakoma. Let them check how many editorial comments we have written calling for justice on this matter. Today they find it defensible to accuse us of being their enemy and threaten to kill us. Is this the kind of politics they want us to support? Never!

We wish them well as they go to get coverage from media that they think will cover them fairly.

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