President Edgar Lungu has told Zambian journalists to stop being used as perpetrators of hatred between him and his political opponents.
And President Lungu has advised newspapers to embrace innovation as the publishing sector has been overtaken by the advent of online media.
Speaking at State House today during an interaction with journalists, President Lungu said journalists must not forget their ethics when reporting.
“I welcome you to State House, and I am delighted that we finally met with all of you.
I have been looking for this opportunity to simply meet you and to say thank you for the great work that you put in, day in day out, to contribute to the development of our great country…The media can build or destroy a nation, therefore, let me urge you not to be swayed by the political shenanigans of the outside world as you do your professional work,” President Lungu said.
“I am proud that since the Patriotic Front government assumed office, there have been great developments in the media, including the digitising of the airwaves. Conversely, we have seen the expansion of the media industry with the private sector taking the lead in the formation of radio and television companies. We have also seen the recruitment of young Zambians to take up positions in these new broadcasting companies.”
He said the print media has, however, faced numerous challenges.
“I know and understand that the same has not been the case in the print industry and the answer is simple; the world has moved onto online publications at a speed unimaginable since the advent of new media. I, therefore, urge those of you who are still printing not to feel depressed, but to innovate so that you survive the harsh reality brought about by online publishing. Let me dare say that there are still thousands of readers who would still prefer hard copies to online publishing.
He said while he applauded the great strides being made in the media industry, he would be “remiss if I did not point out my own observations regarding your products”.
“I have observed glaring disregard for journalism ethos coupled with sustained political bias. Much as I understand that I am the current tenant of state house, and I am susceptible to criticism, I am appalled at the amount of effort put in by you the media in seeing conflict between my political rivals and I. Criticism is healthy in a democracy but surely those few politicians that are quoted on a daily basis are not the only zambians who have voices. There are million voices out there with fair opinions who deserve to be heard,” President Lungu said.
“I, therefore, urge you not to be crusaders of conflict between political players but to provide a forum for public discourse and compromise…You need to create a chasm between journalism and social media craze. This, no one can do apart from yourselves.
Social media is for all; while journalism is for trained communicaters. But if you allow all and sundry to masquerade as journalists, your profession will perish.:
He said the coming of social media has meant individual citizens, themselves, passing content that they have no direct role in producing, and without verification.
“With social media, we have seen that the truth is less important and the more exaggerated or inaccurate the communication is, the more it seems to attract readership. This is the tragedy that we face today. The puzzle is whether our citizens are susceptible to believing what has come to be known as fake news. As Walter Lippmann put it in 1920, ‘there can be no liberty for a community which lacks the information by which to detect lies’,” President Lungu said.
“The question still stands; do our people believe everything they read on social media? If the answer is yes; then we need to find a way of educating them about how to detect lies in the information they come across; if no; then we need to use the same platform to reply to the purveyors of fake news and call their bluff.”