It is in the character of growth that we learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.
The simple lesson of life is that, although evil may be on the rampage temporarily, the good must win the laurels in the end.
None of us can be described as having virtues of qualities that raise us above others. Even Christian morality does not stem from the pharisaical intentions of being sinless. The world cannot be divided between the pure and the impure, as the Pharisees wished; it is divided between those who favour life and those who support death.
We believe that virtue should be cultivated in contact with vice; if not, virtue exists in a pure glass case, totally aseptic, without any pathogenic germs, with a thousand filters that prevent the contaminated air from entering. Virtue is cultivated in the struggle against vice.
If you are pure in the glass case, when the germs appear, you might not have enough anti-bodies. We should therefore have a lot of moral anti-bodies and a consciousness. But there are always a number of people who are prone to become ill, morally ill.
It is said that "gold is tested by fire, and human character is tested in the furnace of humiliation". It is also said that "admit it when you are wrong, and you avoid embarrassment".
When weaknesses or wrongs are admitted openly - this may be embarrassing, but it gives an individual or an institution the opportunity to go about correcting the weaknesses or wrongs openly. It is much easier to solve a problem that is being dealt with honestly and openly than that which is being tackled dishonestly and in secrecy. Truthfulness is important in all we do, especially so in public life.
Dishonesty, crookedness, manipulation and calumny doesn't take anyone anywhere. We all know that the truth is very difficult to suppress forever. No matter how much its adversary - falsehood - may try to overwhelm it, truth always refuses to yield; it is lies that in the end yield to truth.
It was very clear from the very beginning that Rupiah Banda's government's intentions to introduce statutory media regulation in this country would not work. And many people from all walks of life told the government this. Even the parliamentary select committee on the media told the government this. There is no honest and sensible person who has come out in favour of statutory regulation. But yet George Kunda and those he commands and manipulates thought this was the route they could take and the Zambian people would sit ndwii and let them do as they please.
Some would say we should praise the government for backing out of that scheme, at least for now. We have serious difficulties doing so. Not because we are economical with praise. But simply because we don't think it's right to praise a person who sets out to do wrong knowing very well from the inception that what he is doing is not right and everybody has told him so.
When they change course or yield to public pressure, they don't deserve any praise. If we do this, we will be encouraging people to do wrong things so that they can win themselves praise when they correct their positions. It's like thanking or praising a thief who has been caught when he returns his loot. They deserve no praise. In fact, returning stolen property does not save anyone from going to jail.
On media regulation, Rupiah's government had all the best opinions this country could marshal. But they decided to ignore all that because it didn't fit in their agenda to fix The Post.
This government was advised quite early about the need to yield. They were told that yielding is legitimate and essential when the yielder is convinced that those who are striving to make him yield are in the right. In this case, honest politicians frankly and openly admit their mistaken view on statutory regulation of the media and correct them. This is not the case here. What has happened here is a total political defeat.
And as we have stated before, the only other time when yielding is legitimate and essential is when an irrational and harmful demand is yielded to in order to avert a greater evil. But is this the situation here? The answer is a categorical no. We say this because those who are opposing statutory regulation of the media are not irrational and their demand is not harmful. It has been stated over and over again that the media does not always carry out its functions responsibly. But this can also be said of many other institutions, including the presidency, Parliament and sometimes even the judiciary. But we cannot use such lapses or failures as justification for taking away presidential, parliamentary and judiciary immunities and prerogatives.
When we feel the media is operating irresponsibly, the solution is not to devise laws, like George tried to do, that set some arbitrary definition of responsibility or licence journalists, but to broaden the level of public discourse so that citizens can better sift through the chaff of misinformation and rhetoric to find the kernels of truth. And as Nelson Mandela also correctly observed, "None of our irritations with the perceived inadequacies of the media should ever allow us to suggest evenly faintly that the independence of the press could be compromised or coerced. A bad free press is preferable to a technically good, subservient one. A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press is one of the pillars of democracy".
There was no basis whatsoever for the government to think of taking the route of statutory media regulation because that would only take us backwards on democracy and good governance. It will also bring us international shame. It is good that the forces of evil in Rupiah's government have not been allowed to have it their way on this issue. The issue of media freedom is not a small one for a country that aspires to be a democracy and one that wants to be seen as such.
This government was warned that the fight for press freedom is not a localised matter. It is a human rights issue. And as such, there are no borders where press freedom is concerned. George and his friends were mistaken to think they were simply taking on The Post with the issue of statutory regulation of the media. They must have been shocked to realise how united the Zambian media and all Zambians of goodwill were on this issue. They must also have been surprised at the amount of international support and solidarity the Zambian media got in its fight against George's evil intentions.
Clearly, democracy cannot thrive in the absence of a free media. Where will their statutory regulation leave this country if the way the successive governments of this country have controlled and used the state-owned media is anything to go by? Look at the way they are abusing the Zambia Daily Mail, the Times of Zambia and Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation which are under their control and regulation! Is this the way they want the whole media of our country to behave and conduct itself? What would happen to this country if all our newspapers, all our radio and television stations were to operate and be regulated the way of the state-owned media? This is what statutory regulation would amount to - to reduce all media in the country to the state of the state-owned and government-controlled media.
A free press is essential for checks and balances in a democracy. It cannot be denied that a free and vibrant media anywhere in the world, whatever its deficiencies or inadequacies, helps to promote transparency, accountability and good governance. That is why those politicians who want to abuse power, who have a lot of things to sweep under the carpet are uncomfortable with a self-regulating and independent press.
They would do anything to try and gag the media through statutory regulation and other tyrannical ways so that it operates according to their designs. Look at the way the state-media operates: for more than two decades in power, the state media never criticised Dr Kenneth Kaunda; for 10 years, the state media never harangued Frederick Chiluba for anything or in any way attempted to expose the crimes of his league; for seven years, Levy Mwanawasa was an angel and totally sinless - it's only now that one reads articles in the state media that are derogatory of Levy. For the more than one year Rupiah has been in power, no critical article has appeared about him in any of the state media. If the state media was all we had in this country, Rupiah would pass for a saint.
This is the media they want Zambia to have. But where will it take the country?
Opposing statutory regulation of the media is not in any way an expression of support for anarchy, impunity or irresponsibility in the practice of journalism. In any discipline or profession, there are some people who pursue it with honour and integrity while others don't. But this should not give impetus to anyone to use undemocratic means to come up with laws designed to defeat the essence of democracy. There will always be bad eggs everywhere. What is important is to look at the most convenient and prudent ways of dealing with such bad eggs wherever they exist.
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