Kasolo do your job but please stay in your lane

By Edem Djokotoe
I had a troubled night. Couldn’t get over the fact that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Chanda Kasolo turned up at the media self-regulatory insaka and decided to lecture the journalists on good and bad journalism. I couldn’t take it and walked out to calm down.

Government employs the largest number of journalists and media practitioners in the country through the state-owned and government-controlled media. Zambia Daily Mail. Times of Zambia. ZNBC. ZANIS which has information officers in practically every district.

Can Mr Kasolo honestly believe that he gets a real sense of what is going on in the country when he watches ZNBC TV news and reads the government press? In his estimation, does the bilge that is broadcast and published serve public interest and inform people in a way to enables them to play their citizenship role in society?

Does that content speak truth to power and hold leaders accountable for their words and deeds and the decisions they make in the public interest?

Does he know of any of the journalists who work for him (or should I say, fall under his administrative jurisdiction) who have the balls to interrogate government policy decisions and public expenditure decisions–in the public interest?

Does the government-controlled media cast its net wide enough to cover a country as big as Zambia is, going to every nook and cranny? Of course, his people cover the creation of new districts, but are they covering the teething problems and challenges these newly-born babies are facing? Does anyone apart from those who work and live there know how all this is working?

Did any of his people interrogate the investment expos that took place in Luapula and Kapiri Mposhi not so long ago–apart from the official fluff around the whole thing?

I will share my thoughts on what a good journalist would do. Firstly, I’d ask myself why on earth anyone would think of hosting an investment expo for the Central Province at Mulungushi University.

I would be asking because I look at the region in question and know, from my own travels, that agriculture is the mainstay of the Central Province, with Mkushi being the strongest in terms of scale of agricultural production and revenue, and this is mainly because of white commercial farmers.

What is the investment potential of the Central Province and where should the emphasis be? What should be the focus of investment and to what end? I won’t get those answers from reproducing the speeches the guest of honour will read, which sadly, is what made the headlines in the state-owned and government-controlled media.

I could ask the same question of the Luapula expo. Fishing, the biggest economic activity in the province, is one life support because over-fishing has systematically depleted farming stock in Lake Mweru, Lake Bagweulu and Luapula River.

What will it take to restock these lakes and rivers with fish? What will it take to invest massively in fish farming in a region where the predominant belief is that fish is not meant to be farmed like maize but caught from the rivers and lakes God made? Who is telling the story that many fishermen from Luapula have migrated to Itezhi-Tezhi and Siavonga and could be transferring the risk of overfishing to these other areas

I could easily do these stories for Africa Business Report, Al Jazeera or Bloomberg and know a number of fine Zambian journalists who could but question is: why should we? This is where we live and work. Our first responsibility to be to the Zambian public, not to foreign news consumers.

But your journalists, those you lead, are not showing any worthy examples worth emulating and applauding and yet you find time to deliver a lecturer to journalists about journalism.Sorry, but that will not fly. And I am writing as a proud professional who has been in the trenches and in the classroom and all over the place for 38 years. Trust me, I know exactly how the cookie crumbles in this here business and you, my friend, don’t have a clue. I have got nine words for you, esteemed sir. Do your job but please stay in your lane.

The Independent Observer

John Sakala is a Journalist yearning for independent journalism

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