HATE speech is not journalism. It is a pervasion of a noble profession for selfish egoistical and malicious intent.
African journalists have a duty and responsibility to nurture support and defend the nascent democratic culture that calls for diversity and tolerance. It is a delicate task that must be sensitive and alive to competing political social and economic interests that are always at an incendiary point.
This was the case in Rwanda, the case in Burundi, and indeed the case in Kenya, where thousands of lives were lost when hate speech was allowed to inflame and thereby separate communities that had lived together in peace harmony and goodwill.
It is perverse, untraditional and out rightly pathological to stalk, champion and deliberately promote hatred for an individual and through him a party that is in power in order to champion a personal cause that has little or nothing to do with the rest of the society.
It is regrettable that in Zambia today there are no credible professional journalism bodies to sanction and question such behaviours in order to avoid what is increasingly becoming a norm that media can use political nonentities, people with no credible record of achievement and no moral base to cast aspersions that are provocative and ultimately intended to create conflict in the country.
Such was the case with the tonga jibe which is still simmering all because a comment that could have been easily been ignored because of its inflammatory nature was repeated ad nauseum to a point where it became a national issue.
It is not very difficult to judge whether a comment is provocative or not. Very often comments are made by individuals prepared to engage in provocative and abusive language either to deprecate, get even or indeed simply to rubble rouse.
The status of such individuals in society is often doubtful.
The recent remarks by Eric Chanda, Andrew Banda against President Edgar Lungu, were not only offensive but highly misplaced, speculative and at worst used to promote a deeper crusade against the president.
This is evidence by the repetition and constant barrage of attacks many of them meaningless but simply intended to provoke.
We are living in a very sensitive economic, social and political climate in which careless statements will have devastating effects. The current combination of drought resulting in hunger in some places, load shedding and resultant privation are fertile ground in which a spark could easily result in conflagration that will engulf the innocent men women and children whose wish is simply to pursue their lives in peace and harmony.
The guild of international journalists has produced guidelines for media. These include asking such questions as ; it may be outrageous but is it newsworthy? What is the intention of the speaker? What would be the impact of publication? Is there a danger of inflaming passion and incitement to violence? Is the speech fact based and have the claims been tested?
What justification would there be for Andrew Banda to suggest that the President is wearing a suit worth US$3,000? Is there truth? Is there justification? And what reason would a child who is at public logger head with his father have to hit the headlines with such a claim?
Our country has enjoyed peace and empty vessels should not be allowed to plant the seed of hatred and confusion.
Peace is too precious.