Thursday, May 03, 2012

Courage more effective than good laws - Shamenda

Courage more effective than good laws - Shamenda
By Kombe Chimpinde
Thu 03 May 2012, 09:00 CAT

INFORMATION and labour minister Fackson Shamenda says courage is more effective than good laws. And Shamenda yesterday said journalists should learn to observe time.

Meanwhile journalists countrywide today commemorate World Press Freedom Day with the theme in Zambia being "Access to information, a prerequisite to a transformed society."

Opening a media stakeholder's conference at government complex in Lusaka, Shamenda challenged journalists to be courageous in discharging their duties.

He reminded journalists that much as they wanted favourable media laws, some media like The Post had managed to stand out and be the voice of the people even under hostile media laws under the MMD regime.

Shamenda said The Post was able to take on government because the paper had the citizens on its side.

He said if The Post managed to stand up to government, other media organisations should also have had the courage to do so.

Shamenda wondered if there were two laws which made The Post stand up to MMD and the other media fail to do so.

"Is it only The Post Newspaper who were using a different law as compared to the law that the rest of you were using? It is because we had courageous men and women. So you should search yourselves. That is the starting point not the law," he said.

Shamenda said The Post's stand on several issues against MMD was sheer courage buttressed by people.

He said courage also meant that journalists should be able to go to prison in defence of the truth.

"Prisons are made for courageous people like you," said Shamenda to some journalists' disapproval.

Shamenda said without courage, journalists could not be found on the frontline like in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said without courageous journalists, it would be difficult to watch footage from the frontline.

Shamenda said courage was more effective journalism than just good laws.

He said his statement did not mean that the government was against enacting good laws but that courage and good laws went side by side.

Shamenda said there was so much talk about implementation of legislation that would provide an enabling environment but less talk on the levels of inefficiency by some scribes in discharging their noble duty.

"I always believe that it is not a piece of a paper which will guarantee you the freedom, any profession what so ever, is a very risky profession," he said.

Shamenda said media practitioners must not entirely blame the bad laws for their inefficiency but sometimes unprofessionalism in discharging their duties.

"They (Post employees) didn't die. Prisons are made for people who are courageous so if you do not to go there and want the law to protect you, you are in a wrong profession," he said.

"Don't wait to free yourselves from intimidation. Don't wait for the law. Because even without it you can be able to effectively operate, like the example of The Post and I am sure that most of you would agree with me that if The Post was not around, it would have been a little difficult even to remove the MMD."

He said the state media also contributed to removing MMD government because they reported stories which blinded the leadership to the truth.

Shamenda said good media laws should be there to serve special and exceptional rights.

"We have our friends in the public media who even without being told what to write, they sing so much praises about us as if we ask them to praise us. Report factually. If we have done wrong, criticise constructively. It will help us," he said.

He said however that journalists must stand their ground in pushing for the implementation of laws that will create an enabling environment.

Shamenda assured journalists that the basic principles which the PF government espoused as regards media freedom before it assumed power would not be discarded.

He cautioned however that mistakes would be made but that these would be corrected once identified.

And Shamenda asked journalists be observing time during official programmes.

This was after the stakeholders meeting he was officially opening started late.

Shamenda, who walked from his office to the conference venue, said time was not immortal.

He reminded organisers to stick to the programme and not think that time would always be there.

Shamenda said journalists should also learn to manage their mobile phones in meeting places and avoid situations where they ring loudly.

"We need to manage technology and not technology managing us," he said.

Shamenda was seemingly prompted to make the remarks after some phones, left on loud, rang in the room.

And UNDP country director Viola Morgan said the agency would continue supporting media programmes.

And UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in his Press Freedom Day message said freedom of expression is one of our most precious rights. "It underpins every other freedom and provides a foundation for human dignity. Free, pluralistic and independent media is essential for its exercise," said Ban in his message for today.

"Media freedom entails the freedom to hold opinions and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers, as stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This freedom is essential for healthy and vibrant societies. Change in the Arab world has shown the power of aspirations for rights when combined with new and old media."

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