Part 3: MASSAGING A VICTIM COMPLEX: HOW PRIME TV HAS BEEN LET DOWN BY HASTY AND IMPROVIDENT MEDIA BODIES

By Wilfred Sameta

US Senator Robert Byrd in his remarks as the Senate in 2005 opened debate on Senate Joint Resolution 46 – a resolution authorising the President of the United States of America to use whatever force he deemed necessary prior to the gulf war in Iraq or elsewhere cautioned:
_“All things will be clear and distinct to the man who does not hurry; haste is blind and improvident”_.

There have been a variety of automated reactions arising out of the suspension of Prime TV broadcast licence that remind one of the wisdom in Senator Byrd’s advice.

Unfortunately a great deal of the feedback to Prime TV’s situatio has been hasty, blind and improvident.

It has been ill-informed to the realities at the root of the suspension of the television station’s Licence i.e. Prime TV evening news broadcast of Saturday 9th February 2019.

THE MEDIA BODIES

In a scathing attack on IBA and the government shortly after the suspension of Prime TV, the Media Liaison Committee (MLC) in their statement strangely did not refer to the reasons cited in the suspension letter; yet they went off on a tangent diverting attention from the reasons outlined in the suspension letter by vehemently blaming the suspension on the fact that Mr Davies Mwila of PF had “chased” Prime TV reporters from his Press briefing on the 26th of January 2019.

All this muddying of the waters by MLC to conceal the flaws of professional colleagues was really an attempt to cover their own glaring inadequacies. Their attitude is a perfect example of how loyalty becomes perverted when it is understood to mean blind acceptance.

Journalism should be anchored on truth and accuracy; not obfuscation.

What are the clear facts that MLC ZIIMA et al are ducking and diving?

PF letter of complaint to Prime TV and the latter’s subsequent response as well as PF letter escalating the matter to IBA (When they were not satisfied with Prime TV response) was premised on Prime TV 19:30hrs news bulletin of Saturday 9th February 2019 with the caption “ARMED STATE POLICE AND PF CADRES CHASE OF HH IN THICK FOREST TOOK 8 HOURS”

The following matters arising from the above stated bulletin are at the heart of the matter:

1.INFLAMMATORY NEWS REPORTING

The uncorroborated news report was extremely inflammatory and with the potential to evoke hostility and ignite or escalate violence and disturb the peace. (Why have the media bodies been conspicuously silent about this potentially bloodletting aspect of the Prime TV issue?)

2. INACCURATE BIASED UNETHICAL REPORTING

Overhyped news and Sensationalism: Footage of the same news report did NOT show any evidence or pictures or footage of State Police and PF cadres pursuing Bo HH into the Bush. Bo HH was on the contrary seen taking a leisurely stroll and issuing instructions to his delegation!

There was NO Corroboration between the footage and the story of him being hunted down.

(Yet again MLC ZIIMA and the rest are silent. Isn’t it a surprise that MLC, ZIIMA and the rest have never condemned fake news! Why? Isn’t this something that threatens their profession? Or could it be that perhaps be that they benefit from it?)

3. SOURCE CONTRADICTED THE STORY

UPND Chairperson Mrs Nalumango was captured delivering a statement in the footage of the Prime TV story news bulletin in question where she said: “there was totally nothing of any violence and there was no PF anywhere and there was NO Patriotic Front in confrontation with UPND”.

The UPND Chairperson’s comments in the footage contradicted the Televisions station’s headline and story.

(One wonders, have these media bodies even taken time to review this particular bulletin?)

4. OPINIONATED NEWS ANCHORED BY A PRIME TV MEMBER OF UPND MEDIA TEAM PUSHING FOR REGIME CHANGE:

Prime TV news and current affairs programmes are heavily politicised and opinionated in their delivery and disparaging of the government in their content.

They are mainly anchored by Mark Simuwe – a known active member of the United Party for National Development (UPND) Media Team.
(Perhaps ZIIMA, MISA and MLC approve of this?)

5. NEWS DIRECTLY PRODUCED BY POLITICAL INTERESTS

In a section of the footage of the story Bo HH is captured directing the cameraman.
Prime TV in their letter of response to PF’s complaint stated: “The idea of the story HH and many hours of being pursued are based on the official position of UPND officials.”

(Again, perhaps this is normal in the eyes of Enock Ngoma of MLC and WPFD, ZIIMA president Jajah Coulibaly and company?)

MLC further misrepresented the facts by claiming that the IBA had disregarded its own regulations because they allege that PF SG directly wrote a letter of complaint to IBA without first complaining in writing to Prime TV. Wrong! (All these pieces of correspondence between PF and Prime TV and subsequently IBA are in the public domain. PF wrote to Prime TV first, Prime TV responded after two days and then PF SG not being satisfied with the Prime TV response escalated the matter to IBA.MISA was copied in all correspondence)

TRUTH AND ACCURACY IN JOURNALISM

It cannot be overemphasised that truth and accuracy are sacrosanct in the practice of Journalism. It is therefore disconcerting when media “mother” bodies such as ZIIMA and MLC distort their facts. If they can peddle misinformation to such a degree and ignore the facts, then what hope is there for the young and upcoming journalists at Prime TV? What about the cub reporters in the making? It makes me shudder! I wonder what the dearly departed media “fundi’s” Professor Peter Kasoma and Fackson Nkandu would make of this.

It is not helpful to Prime TV and the rest of the media fraternity that MLC, ZIIMA, MISA and company have degenerated into automatons pre-configured to respond in a negative way towards the authorities without considering the facts of the matter. Loyalty to professional colleagues should not render one blind to the truth. Loyalty must be enforced by reason; when loyalty becomes blind, it becomes dogmatic rhetoric.

These media bodies are partisan in approach and clearly lack objectivity. They are silent to the wrongs of the opposition and scream loudly to the perceived wrongs of the ruling party.

For instance:

1. Why didn’t they condemn the opposition when Journalists from various media houses were roughed up by UPND cadres during elections in Chilanga last year?*

2. Where were they when Bo HH called Bangwe Navilley “Stupid”?

3. What have they done about revelations by former Prime TV journalist Kasebamashila Kaseba on his face book page regarding the mistreatment and divide and rule tactics of Gerald Shawa at Prime TV?

4. What are they doing about former Prime TV Staffer Kalani Muchima’s revelation that the owner of Prime TV encourages his journalistd to do “bad things” in order to “make money” for the station?

5. While Media Owners are getting richer and the journalists poorer, What are ZIIMA, MLC & MISA doing to fight for better conditions of service for hard working journalists? When are they going to seek a permit to march for this cause? Touche!

6. Why did they fold their hands and look away when a certain political cum entertainment personality insulted the journalism fraternity over transport refunds?

7. What Continuous Development Programmes are they facilitating for practising journalists? None!

8. What have they done to help Prime TV from a professional perspective to address the issues listed from 1-5 above that are at the core of the Television stations suspension? Nothing!

Zambia needs a kind of Journalism that is rooted in facts with a progressive and objective perspective on their country and the world in general.

(That doesn’t by any means mean that journalists should become doormats of the government or roll over and play dead; God forbid-no!

However, Journalism does not need the drama of the mechanical victim mind-set being projected by MLC’s and ZIIMA’s Messrs Enock Ngoma, Jajah Coulibaly and company.

This twisted attitude has wrought in them them a delusion of fault and blame, such that they have become blinded from the simple truth of cause and effect. Sometimes people create their own storms and then get upset when it rains!

There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true. Coullibaly and Ngoma go both ways.

These parochial distortions do not augur well for media organisations that seek to uphold truth and accuracy; nor do they help Prime TV.

WITH THESE SUBJECTIVE KIND OF MEDIA BODIES, SELF REGULATION IS A MIRAGE

With the kind of attitude of MLC, ZIIMA, MISA and company, one begins to understand why since 2010 self-regulation amongst the media fraternity has continued to be an elusive mirage. Because of such leadership in the media bodies, journalists are unfortunately the most polarised profession in the country.

Journalism is currently a profession with so many “mother bodies” arising out of so many egos and partisan interests.

Whilst Lawyers, Accountants, Medical Personnel, Engineers Human Resource Practitioners, Purchasers, and even other professions closely linked to Journalism like Marketers and Public Relations practitioners are either already self-regulating or have made significant progress in self-regulation, journalists – thanks to a plethora of egoistic leaders of media bodies (without a unifying desire to develop their profession) self-regulation is in the doldrums. Meanwhile Ngoma, Coulibaly and company are chasing selfish interests as they run helter-skelter in Brownian motion.

Self-regulation requires a high degree of objectivity. It is lack of such objectivity and a lack of honest criticism as highlighted in their mishandling of the Prime TV debacle that has prevented the media fraternity from attaining self-regulation since 2010.

They have become a self-saboteurs in journalism and they have compounded that by also having a victim mentality. It is as though they are holding their own breath and then blaming others for their inability to breathe.

Such is the story of the hasty and improvident media bodies and their neglect of Prime TV.

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