Veteran journalist Charles Chisala has said he is disappointed with the ZNBC board’s failure to defend the recent appointment of new ZNBC Director General Berry Lwando.
Some UPND members have opposed the appointment of Mr. Lwando arguing that he is a member of the Patriotic Front (PF).
Mr. Chisala, a former news editor, said since Mr. Lwando is at the centre of controversy the ZNBC Board of Directors needed to defend its decision to hire him.
He also questioned the manner in which the media has covered the story of Mr. Lwando’s appointment.
“Ever since the vicious media campaign against Mr Berry Lwando, one of Zambia’s most experienced and exposed journalists, started I have not seen balance and fairness in the stories. Or have I missed them? Media outlets have continued to project and parrot only one side of the story. Only the voices and images of those who are fighting the man’s appointment as the new director general of our national broadcaster, ZNBC, are being heard and seen. Mr Lwando has not been given an opportunity to respond or defend himself, which is, of course, not easy for him to do for obvious reasons. This is an affront to natural justice. Some media outlets and individual reporters are, consciously or unconsciously, allowing themselves to be used by people with vested interests as conduits of hatred targeted at a citizen without giving him a chance to defend himself as media ethics demand, “Mr. Chisala stated.
He continued:”What is even more disappointing is that the board of directors of ZNBC, which appointed Mr Lwando, has not come out to defend him and its decision. This has left him vulnerable as a defenceless and voiceless victim. The issue here is not whether those who are attacking Mr Lwando and calling for the reversal of his appointment are right or wrong. It’s whether we are being professional in the manner we are covering the saga as journalists. We are failing in our duty as crusaders against injustice and defenders of the weak against the powerful. I am advising my fellow journalists to tread carefully when handling serious allegations that border on defamation of character. Remember, the target has recourse to legal action against the sources, the media house and the reporter in his or her individual capacity.”
He said there was a need to defend Mr. Lwando’s human rights amid attacks on his appointment.
“Zambia is a constitutional democracy where the fundamental human rights of citizens are enshrined and guaranteed in our supreme law of the land, the republican Constitution which are reinforced by various statutes. Mr Lwando has human rights, which he is free to defend through the public justice system of our nation if no one is willing to defend them on his behalf. Successful litigation could be costly as it would entail paying the hefty damages that a court may award the victim as compensation for libel. Guys, a single judgement could shut down your media house and cause immense misery for you as a reporter. This is the main reason for which in such cases the courts tilt the pendulum of justice heavily in favour of the victim. It’s rare for the media house and the reporter to win such cases. Court libraries are replete with examples. Go out there and check for yourself. Journalism ethics demand that whenever serious allegations or injurious remarks are targeted at an individual, a group of people or organisation, the target of the attack must be given a chance to defend themselves in the same story and on the same platform,” Mr. Chisala said.
Mr. Lwando has returned to ZNBC having previously served as Director Programmes between 2012 and 2014 as well as Director Digital Terrestrial Television in 2015.