By DERRICK SINJELA and SAEED SIMON BANDA in Lusaka, Zambia
MEDIA Liaison Committee (MLC) Chairperson Enock Ngoma has welcomed the call by the Republican President Hakainde Sammy Hichilema (HSH7) urging Media Owners Association of Zambia (MOAZ), to remain professional at all times.
Like Mr. Hichilema, Mr. Ngoma is equally concerned on lack of knowledge among journalists to specialise on particular subjects in their reportage.
Ngoma says MLC understands concerns raised by Hichilema including sharing frustration of specialists from non-media fields, when they see the media fail to represent their issues well.
“The MLC bemoans this problem and have shared our concerns with media stakeholders such as academia, training institutions as well as media owners. We have also shared with policy makers in the media sector to emphasise the need for reforms in the media sector. We totally agree with Mr Hichilema but hasten to say that some of the reasons why journalists have decided to go unprofessional include lack of contracts at work places, poor or low salaries and no conditions of service to talk about. Journalists operate on voluntary basis, have no contracts with their media houses and go for months without salaries,” said Ngoma.
Ngoma explained that following a mandate from the majority of media practitioners, MLC embarked on the Statutory Self-Regulation process (SSRP) with the aim of ensuring that the media sector operates in a professional manner and that journalists are treated as professionals in the work place, afforded all necessary work tools so they conduct their duties in a manner befitting the profession of journalism as ‘ A Watchdog and Fourth Estate of The State.
The MLC informed the media fraternity that the issue of Media Self-Regulation (MSR) in Zambia is still active as stakeholder consultations continue and a clear position will be announced soon.
“As long as journalists do not enjoy benefits that are supposed to go with being in employment, it will be difficult to resolve the issue of unprofessionalism. Journalists need to enjoy conditions such as housing allowances, transport allowances, education allowances and medical schemes.” Ngoma, a print media veteran journalists admonished.
Ngoma reiterated that lack of guaranteed humane conditions of service and incomes has resulted in journalists demanding for transport refunds or ‘blalizo’ from events and news sources.
Ngoma observed that journalists even go beyond transport refunds charging news sources a minimum of K500 if they want to see their story appear in a particular electronic, online and print news media.
“As MLC, this is a rather unfortunate situation. Journalists contribute a lot to media houses and deserve to be rewarded handsomely for the risky job that they do. As long as the status quo remains compounded with factors such as lack of job security, polarisation in the industry and lack of unity among practitioners, unprofessional conduct will be impossible to eradicate.” advised Ngoma.
Ngoma says the MLC is currently undertaking snap surveys in a number of media houses across the country to fact find on the issue of contracts and poor conditions of service following numerous complaints emanating from individual journalists.
The ongoing MLC fact-finding mission entails checking whether practitioners are free to join labour unions of their choice.
Ngoma reported that the Zambia Media Council (ZAMEC) draft Bill is currently at the Ministry of Justice (MoC) awaiting a go-ahead instruction from the MLC but in the spirit of consensus building, the MLC seeks to exhaust consultations with all stakeholders.
“Even as consultations are ongoing, the MLC is in the process of developing a ZAMEC website where individual journalists can register for membership online even in the absence of the ZAMEC law,” said Enock Ngoma, and can be contacted as Media Liaison Committee Chairperson on +260977883129 and
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“Media Practitioners Need Incentives to be Professional,” prods Media Liaison Committee Chairperson Enock Ngoma –