By Gershom Ndhlovu
I reproduce a response I received from last week’s column, “MECOZ out of order” from Bestone Ng’onga, Media Trust Fund executive secretary.
I have just been reading your article in the National Mirror and thought I should put you in the know because you seemed misguided and accused your brother, Beenwell (Mwale), for nothing.
MECOZ, as you rightly put it, was a reaction to the move by Government to regulate the media and it was established to show the Government that the media can regulate itself.
In the Consultative Meeting held at Cresta Golfview Hotel in
Get me right, it was not about who regulates who. However, during the deliberations on the draft Constitution, some members of the meeting assisted by our learned lawyers present argued that if MECOZ was to gain the credibility it deserves in ensuring press freedom, ethical conduct of media practitioners etc, it needed to have some enforceable powers.
In its current state where its constitution says it should be non statutory, voluntary and self-regulatory, it would be difficult for it to enforce the codes on the journalists and media organisations and institutions because any media personnel or institution found wanting would choose not to abide by MECOZ adjudication and may even decide to withdraw, thereby condoning unethical behaviour especially from such people who
claim to be journalists and yet they are not, but tread on personal agenda.
Mr. Ndhlovu, do not tell me you do not know about such people who have tarnished the image of our profession.
During that debate, members of the meeting resolved that to give MECOZ the teeth to ensure the media self-regulate themselves, it needed to be given legal powers to adjudicate cases brought to it by the general public and thereby reduce the time and cases of legal redress through courts of law.
It was resolved that MECOZ should be legislated like the Law Association of Zambia, the Zambia Institute of Certified Accounts, the Engineering Regulation Board so that the Government would have no excuse of imposing itself on the media. This does not mean Government would be involved in the running of MECOZ but this would entirely be the media baby.
This was a proposal that needed to be debated at the Annual General Meeting because the Consultative Meeting had no mandate to change the Constitution, but was just called to deliberate the Constitution before the AGM.
Actually PAZA offered to finance the AGM at which the issue of self-regulation and statutory arrangement would be formally debated and either adopted or rejected. Beenwell and Sister Nyondo were just following the debates of the media fraternity and were not the originators of the ideas. Mind you, only the Post Newspaper missed the meeting, the rest of the media institutions were represented and were participants in the debates.
The Government has made it clear that it does not want to regulate the media because the media should do so themselves. However, if the media continue to be fragmented and fail to come up with some form of self-regulatory arrangement, then like in
In short, no decision has ever been made concerning the direction of MECOZ. The media practitioners have just been brainstorming, period. You know what happened at the Mail. Do you want every Jim and Jack to call themselves journalists when they have never seen the entrance to any journalism class where you had to spend four years to be called a Journalist?
What you should be doing is to propose the best ways of making MECOZ strong and effective instead of condemning your own baby. Do not be like administrators who fear media regulation because they are not journalists. Only a thief fears law.
I still want to disagree with Mr Ng’onga, a former workmate at the Zambia Daily Mail. The best media regulator is the market and not some state-regulated busy bodies who want to even prescribe what words to use when writing stories.
Discerning readers would not want to associate themselves with nondescript rags of newspapers which do not adhere to media ethics. For starters, how many newspapers have folded up on the Zambian market because of their poor news presentation? Plenty.
We have had newspapers of all hues and shades, literally, but because they did not respect other people in the way they reported and readers and advertisers simply stopped giving them business.
The business aspect aside, developments in New Media Technologies in which there is convergence between print, broadcasting and other forms of (mass) communication, present forms of mass communication will just be made nonsense of.
Some people will argue that
As others have argued before, media practice cannot be equated to medical practice, legal practice or even engineering practice. I suppose these professions do not have as many laws as govern journalism practice which has to contend with laws of civil and criminal libel, state secrets laws, copyright laws and similar legislation.
What also sets journalism apart from other professional fields is the fact that it borders on personal liberties. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, and just about everyone with an opinion to share, contribute articles to newspapers. I hope that the proposed MECOZ law will not require them to obtain licences first.