The Post Newspapers Zambia
By Editor on Tuesday 29 December 2009, 04:00:00 CAT (6482 Reads)
Some of us get waken up by harsh realities of life. We suffer so much that we wake up. But people keep bumping again and again into life. They still go on sleep-walking. They never wake up. Tragically, it never occurs to them that there may be another way.
It never occurs to them that there may be a better way. Still, if you haven't been bumped sufficiently by life, and you haven't suffered enough, then there is another way: to listen.
We wish George Kunda would care to listen to what is being said about him. Last week, very harsh words were used by the Media Liaison Committee - the Press Association of Zambia, Media Institute of Southern Africa, Zambia Union of Journalists, Zambia Media Women Association, Zambia Union of Broadcasters and Information Disseminators, Press Freedom Committee of The Post, Panos Southern Africa and Catholic Media Services - to describe George and his behaviour. They declared George as the number one enemy of the media in Zambia; they declared him the most hostile public official towards the media and the number one enemy of the media freedom since the end of single party dictatorship some two decades ago.
They vowed to resist what they called George's "cold hand of censorship". They observed that "his recent manoeuvres to censor and control the entire media in Zambia through his cold hand behind his proposed draconian media council law ranks as one of the most blatant acts against media freedom and freedom of expression in Zambia since independence".
They said "the motive for this ugly disposition is his strange appetite to settle scores with his perceived enemies in the media, civil society and some legal practitioners who cannot bow to his trademark manipulative behaviour". This is the situation George today finds himself in. It is not his perceived enemies at The Post who are saying this. It is a consensus position of the Zambian media. And this is a deeply-felt distaste of George.
We agree with and share the feelings of the Media Liaison Committee about George. And we have expressed somewhat similar views about George. We hope George will listen and mull over things and consider the feelings of others. We hope he will listen and learn something from what is being said about him.
This must be a wake-up call for George. George has manipulated many things, many processes in this country since 2002 when Levy Mwanawasa drafted him into politics and government. But there is a limit to manipulation.
We hope now George will realise that manipulators have never deserved anybody's respect or been respected anywhere. As we have stated before, manipulators are like little sailboats that go with the wind and the waves. Manipulation is synonymous with opportunism. Manipulation doesn't have substance; it doesn't have roots.
Everything - respect, relationships, serious analysis, and understanding - is only possible among people who are honest with themselves and with others.
The position taken by the Media Liaison Committee demonstrates that the great majority of the people in our country, including those in the media don't agree with and are opposed to what George is trying to do - in case there were to remain any doubt, among those who are so naive as to take pleasure in deceiving themselves or in allowing themselves to be deceived.
George underestimated our people, our journalists and believed that they were incapable of organising themselves. He believed that they were incapable of unity; he believed they were a helpless group that would submit easily. George believed that they were going to be victims of disunity, of unpreparedness, of the incapacity to organise themselves.
However, what the Media Liaison Committee said last week proves the opposite, demonstrates their capacity and shows what they can do if pushed against the wall.
Clearly, George is not mobilising support for Rupiah Banda and his government. He is instead mobilising opposition, contempt for himself, his boss and the entire MMD government.
All this opposition to George and what he stands for is being done by people he thought were docile. Probably what George needs to know is what has converted these people who he once thought were docile into a Spartan people?
To what should this fervent effort be attributed? Simply to a reality; the reality that the nation is in danger, the reality that the nation is threatened by the decisions and actions of George and his friends.
The media laws that George and his friends want to enact will push this country back to the Stone Age. They will make Zambia a laughing stock of the region. Even Zimbabweans will laugh at us because they have seen what such media laws can do to a country and are moving away from them. Probably Chinua Achebe was right when he said:
"A man who has just come in from the rain and dried his body and put on dry clothes is more reluctant to go out again than another who has been indoors all the time. The trouble with our new nation…was that none of us had been indoors long enough to be able to say 'to hell with it.' We had all been in the rain together until yesterday. Then a handful of us - the smart and the lucky and hardly ever the best - had scrambled for the one shelter our former rulers left, and had taken it over and barricaded themselves in.
And from within they sought to persuade the rest through numerous loud speakers, that the first phase of the struggle had been won and that the next phase - the extension of our house - was even more important and called for new and original tactics; it required that all arguments should cease and the whole people should speak with one voice…"
Nations have been destroyed by petty-minded people. Pettiness is very dangerous, especially for those who are in positions of authority like George. The path that George has taken on media legislation does not, in any way, lead to the deepening and broadening of democracy in our country. It is actually a recipe for tyranny. What George wants to do is to turn the entire media of our country into a government-controlled one without the state owning it.
If George is allowed to succeed in his endeavours, the entire Zambian media will be turned into one huge government-controlled media where all the newspapers will be like the state-owned and government-controlled Zambia Daily Mail and Times of Zambia while all the radio and television stations will be ZNBC. Is this what this country wants? What good will that do to this country?
We have given a lot of advice to George and his friends on this issue. And many other people have spoken and have advised George and his friends to take a more rational path on media issues. But all that has fallen on deaf ears.
It has been made clear to George that the world recognises the fact that journalism is not just a profession.
It is the exercise by occupation of the right to free expression available to every citizen. That right, being available to all, cannot in principle be withdrawn from a few by any system of licensing or professional registration. And we have repeatedly quoted the views and advice of Nelson Mandela on this issue and we repeat: "A bad free press is preferable to a technically good subservient press.
None of our irritations with the perceived inadequacies of the media should ever allow us to even suggest faintly that the independence of the press could be compromised or coerced." To George, all this means nothing, Mandela is talking nonsense. For sure, it is not Mandela who is talking nonsense, it is George who is failing to see things because he is blinded by ambition. To George, such legislation will curtail the activities of The Post and other news media to expose the crimes of his league and save him from losing political office.
That's all George is interested in. All other things don't matter. And in pursuit of that, he is prepared to sacrifice a lot of things. There are no values or principles that are dear to George. What matters to George is what he gets, what is in something for him. Right now, George thinks there is nothing for him in having a free and independent media.
He finds the state- owned and government-controlled media to be more of benefit to him and as such, he wants every media organisation to operate or similar terms. It won't work. Being greedy is sometimes dangerous. In trying to bring all the country's media under his control, George risks losing even the control that he has over the state-owned media.
What is good is that the Zambian people now know who George is and as such, his capacity to manipulate things has been dealt a deadly blow. There is a limit to everything and this time, George has gone too far without realising that he is dealing with a totally different issue, involving different people and at the wrong time.
If George does not run away from this issue, it will devour him. On this one, he will not have his way - it's impossible to have those evil ideas imposed on our country's media and indeed on our people. George has an evil mind that doesn't seem to bend to reason. But over this one, he has to yield.