Monday, December 5, 2011

An inspiring day at The Post

This post will be shorter than planned because I'm doing it standing up, at the only place in my room with enough signal strength to blog! (The hotel's business center closes at 7 p.m.) These posts are made three hours earlier than indicated; the posting time is Pacific.

I had an inspiring day at The Post, the only privately owned daily newspaper in Zambia. Few papers can say they changed the course of their country, but this one can. There seems to be general agreement that if The Post had not revealed the corruption, pitfalls and peccadilloes of the government that was ousted in the Sept. elections, that party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, would still be in power.

Some reporters said they worried that the victory by the Patriotic Front, which had used The Post as its main information outlet, would mean that the newspaper would go easier on the new government. "This is the government that we have literally put in place," said reporter-photographer Joseph Mwenda, who also updates the paper's website. They said that concern has evaporated, with stories and editorials revealing and criticizing questionable appointments by the new president, Michael Sata.

Today I helped Mwenda update the site, with a story in which Sata said he dismissed Amnesty International's demand that he arrest former President George W. Bush during his recent visit because the group "haven't given us the facts," and I helped Assistant News Editor Speedwell Mupuchi edit a story by Moses Kuwema about Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, in which Zambia again improved only slightly. The survey was taken before the election; Muwenda, one of many young, sharp, dedicated journalists at the paper, said he expects the new government to greatly improve the nation's rating because "It has embraced the anti-corruption message of The Post."

I asked Managing Editor Sam Mujuda of the paper will be as tough on the new government as the old one. "It will depend on the government sticking to its policy," he said. The Patriotic Front's platform included a Freedom of Information Act. Mujuda, who is also a lawyer and media-law lecturer, said he expects Parliament to pass the law, but "I've told my students the media doesn't need the freedom-of-information bill. The public needs it more."

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