The rudimentary elements of journalism branch off three straightforward words summarized as “inform, educate and entertain”.

In practice the profession assumes the unofficial role of the Fourth Estate.

This means the profession becomes the people’s oversight over the three arms of government – the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature.

So, in an authoritarian state where the three arms of the government are subject to the almighty rule of individuals in charge of the Executive and are holding the Judiciary and Legislature hostage, it’s the Fourth Estate – the journalism profession – that becomes the most critical arm of governance.

Such responsibility discharged on behalf of masses is no mean role. And irrespective of one’s level of education provided he or she has been inside a journalism classroom, the founding principles of the trade to “inform, educate and entertain” remain unaltered

Arising from this foundation, a journalist assumes a moral-related responsibility to represent society in a fair and humane way. And as moral agents, journalists are held to a high standard of value.

The profession is key to setting a national agenda, determine reform and advocate for needy areas. Therefore, seeing comrade Alex Muliokela being flaunted on otherwise very important and key media platforms make for sad viewing.

I am not here to judge, neither have I assumed credentials to offer any lessons in the field of Ethics and Journalism. Not, not yet. Perhaps in the not-too-distant future. Suffice to note I have held a pen and notebook long enough to share an opinion on matters that concern my profession.

Secondly, issues of mental health are very close to heart. There’s nothing peculiar about mental health. It’s a part of a human being’s medical condition, except it does not affect the physical well-being but the mind, making it a complex medical condition.

The scanty research around mental health in Zambia suggest one in five has some form of such disability. Even with this high number of potential mental health cases, the Ministry of Health budgetary allocation to this sector is said to be less than five percent.

When you visit the country’s largest mental hospital where the best and hardworking personnel are trying their best to contribute to the sector, chances of mistaking the facility for Chimbokaila or Mukobeko Correctional structures are very high.

The buildings are dilapidated, the stench that greets you is perhaps worse than what may come out of a pit latrine. The under-funding, the lack of sufficient personnel is so visible from a distance. You need not ask to know what is going on. Clearly, little attention is paid to this part of our public health system.

When you see a friend or relative in that place, you breakdown for them. Not because they have fallen ill and are seeking help, but perhaps because the place we all hope should help them heal is virtually a dungeon.

Personnel is doing their best but the squalor conditions they work in does no good to their efforts of making the facility a good destination for victims. These are journalistic stories we should be highlighting.

In a country where the rate of suicide among college going youths has sky-rocketed and senseless cases of homicide are on the rise, there’s a need to investigate and establish what could be the problem. These are journalistic stories we must pursue so we can inform and educate our people about their well-being.

It becomes a source of concern when as journalists we feature an individual who makes a declaration that the use of the condoms, for instance, will be criminalized when he or she is elected as president. How can we claim we are playing a competent role of informing the people with this disinformation?

Yet on December 1, we will line up our camera to sing songs and carry speeches about fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Is it not contradictory that on April 28 we would have featured a ‘presidential candidate’ who derides one of the key factors in the fight against a disease we dedicated December 1 for awareness?

Comrade Muliokela’s presentations are clearly incoherent. He sounds enlightened during spells of conversations he has with different people that are shared online but we all should be aware that his candidacy can’t go anywhere.

And in any case, anyone who goes to file as a presidential candidate in his form and shape is answerable to a constitutional provision that would subject their mind to a test of soundness. So, why should we continue to aggravate his challenge?

As opposed to the path we have taken on comrade Muliokela, it’s about time we deployed a moral and human approach.

We must empathize with his loved ones. He strikes me as one whose loved ones have given up on. The nation and our health system should never give up on its people.

You can’t blame his loved one. Mental healthcare is not only demanding but can be complex in approach and calls for various mechanisms of approach to treatment to help victims recover. Caregiving for victims not for the faint-hearted.

Let’s remember that the golden rule in journalism is to do unto comrade Muliokela as we would want done to us. There’s a good reason we protect victims of rape & defilement, minors and including the dead. It’s because that’s an ethical standard.

This wanton abuse of a man who needs our help rather than fertilizing the realm of his condition must come to an end. It has nothing to do with journalism. Journalism calls for responsibility and ethical behavior. The more reason we have gatekeepers in the newsroom.

The proliferation of radio stations, newspapers, television stations and websites does not translate into a compromise on our role to inform, educate and entertain. The abuse of comrade Muliokela particularly by journalists and by extension everyone must therefore come to an end.

It is not journalism. We are assuming the role of enablers of stigma. Mental health is real. Care and protect for a brother, sister, or friend. It is our ethical and moral responsibility to do so.

By Augustine Mukoka



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