Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Freedom is meaningless if it's just about being right - M'membe

Freedom is meaningless if it's just about being right - M'membe
By Kombe Chimpinde
Tue 11 Dec. 2012, 12:00 CAT

POST editor-in-chief Fred M'membe says he will be a journalist for as long as he lives. And M'membe says the harsh conditions in the media are making it difficult for women to take up newsroom leadership positions.

Meanwhile, M'membe says freedom is meaningless if it just about being right. Giving a talk at the Women in News (WIN) Graduate Retreat and Summit Agenda in Lusaka yesterday, M'membe, who recounted how he developed a passion for journalism, said although the field of journalism was not an easy undertaking, he had chosen to remain a journalist for the rest of his life.

"Of all the things I have done, what interests me most is being a journalist. Although I am a qualified professional in other fields, I don't consider myself to be a member of any other profession other than being a journalist.

My passport does not carry any profession other than that of being a journalist. I am a journalist with legal knowledge. I am a journalist with economic, accounting and business knowledge, but the first thing that I am is a journalist and I will be a journalist for as long as I live," he said.
M'membe said nothing was as interesting to him as journalism.

"I have been hearing for the last fifteen or so years that I want to get into politics. Yes we are all politicians but of different sorts. Politicians in the sense that there are certain things we want for our country, our people, for humanity. I have wanted those things for my country, for my people, for humanity since my teens and to this day I still want them for my people and I will continue to seek them.
"I am a journalist, and this is the terrain I have chosen to fight on, to struggle for these things from. Journalism seems to be the meaning and purpose of my life," he said.

M'membe said there was need for a lot of resources to be spent on preparing women to take up leading roles in the media and in life in general and for the realignment of work to give women a chance to compete for leadership positions.
He observed that gender equality was not about mere promotion of women, but a question of spending more resources on their development and making their conditions of work bearable.

"I am not bothered about the 50%-50%; it's not an issue for me. You cannot just come and dream some statistics that it has to be fifty, even if you know the quality does not match up to fifty or if only little work has be done to bring marginalised and discriminated people to the level where they can assert themselves effectively," M'membe said.

"The women who occupy high positions at The Post deserve to be where they are. It's not an issue of simply affirmative action but affirmative action in creating conditions that develop women to that needed high level much quicker and not discriminating them in any way although there all these other challenges," he said.

"There is injustice being committed against women, there is discrimination and marginalisation against women. But that marginalistaion, discrimination is not only unique in the domain of gender, it has been there also in other aspects of our lives."

M'membe also bemoaned the various challenges that beset women and inhibit them from attaining greater heights.
He cited the participation of women in the media industry, which he said was still in a very weak state.

"In Zambia we are still battling with things that we were battling with 20 years ago. A bit of progress has been made but more needs to be done. It is increasingly difficult for women to work in the media. The conditions are harsh for them," M'membe said. "With the tightening of budgets, it means journalists have to work longer hours and women have to do this in addition to their responsibilities when they get back home.

Sometimes they get married to men who live in places where their newspapers don't have offices, forcing them to abandon journalism and lose out in their career development."
M'membe advised women not to give up but to work hard and continue struggling for their rightful place in society.

"You have to work harder than men if you have to catch up. You have to work in a more strategic way. You have to set your goals very clearly. Of course, the ground has to be altered for you. Shift the fight to the terrain where you are comfortable," he said." It gets dark sometimes. But the morning always comes. Don't give up. Where there is a crucifixion, there's a resurrection. Don't give up. We will, working together, get it right one day."

M'membe reminded women that wherever there was a struggle to wage there was need for the promotion of a free media.
"There was a time and recently when women could not vote in nations that call themselves the most civilised nations of the world; a woman could not vote, she was not a full person, with full rights. They don't talk much about that anymore," he said.

M'membe described Zambia's current press freedom situation as good.
"We (Zambia) are better in terms of press freedom because of the efforts that many people exerted over the last 21 years. The media space that we have is not the space we had 21 years ago. We had to work for it," he said. "Of course there is humiliation in fighting for some of these things. Being behind bars is not a pleasant thing; being arrested in front of your children and friends isn't a pleasant thing … But we knew what we stood for.

Of course sometimes we got certain things wrong but it's part of the liberties we are seeking. Freedom is meaningless if it is just about being right and journalism is increasingly becoming a profession where if you make a mistake, you are taken to prison."
M'membe said liberties of the media have to be defended consistently and vigilantly in Zambia and the world over.


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