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Pioneering the Cause for Media Reform in Zambia

Pioneering the Cause for Media Reform in Zambia

Article ID:

16214

Journalists across the world have been harassed, beaten and silenced for telling the truth. In countries boasting rich democracy, the media enjoys great benefits from the establishment of bodies whose sole mandate is to make life easier for journalists. Zambia is one such country that is celebrating the establishment of an organisation that works for the good of the industry.

The person who is pioneering this cause is Leah Komakoma. Leah holds two very challenging and demanding positions. She is the Executive Secretary of The Post newspaper as well as Chairperson of the Press Freedom Committee of Zambia. On top of these two demanding positions which every day present their own trials, she has what she calls a ‘third job’ at home. Just as demanding as the other two positions, it requires her to be in the right frame of mind in order to give her family the attention they deserve.

As the Executive Secretary and Chairperson of the Post and the Press Freedom Committee of Zambia, Leah’s duties revolve around trying to set up media reforms in the country. This involves looking into the implementation of media laws as well as assisting journalists who find themselves before the courts. Often, this assistance comes in the form of finding legal representation. The Zambian Media Ethics Council, an offspring organisation recently established to address numerous issues concerning the media, is also under her responsibility.

“In the past if you complained about a story, there was no organisation where you could take your case,” Leah explains. “What we have set up is a cheaper and faster way of dealing with complaints. We now have a 90-day period of dealing with them.”

The body is currently correcting issues in the constitution, hoping to avoid a situation where they would have to go back to the drawing board at a later stage.

“We want to do this right,” Leah says. “We recently held a meeting where we had suggestions from media institutions. Different organisations have endorsed this initiative and have given us the mandate to see how to best work out what we are hoping to do.”

With this amount of work, how does Leah juggle her duties at home with those at the office? While her day begins at eight when she reports for work, going home does not mean clocking-off.

“I start another job when I get home, and it involves playing with the kids because they miss me when I’m not at home,” says Leah. “I get a lot of help from my mother and I am also lucky to be working at a company where top management positions are held by women. It inspires you to keep going, even on days when you are at your lowest,” she notes, adding that regardless, there was potential for everyone.

When dealing with the pressure that comes with her different jobs, Leah points out that most of the time, she steps back and takes a breath. She is also unafraid to consult when certain decisions need taking. Most importantly she takes pride in learning from her mistakes.

“There have been times when I have not consulted and failed. And the one thing that I have come to appreciate is avoiding making the same decisions again. But most importantly I find no harm in asking people for assistance both in our organisation and outside, especially during times when the path is not very clear.”

One of the biggest lessons Leah has learned is that in the majority of cases, men have the tendency to underestimate women. This, she says, is something she has used to her own advantage because in the majority of instances, men do not care about what women can achieve. “They [men] spend so much time belittling you while you are busy working and climbing up the ladder."

With regards to her exciting journey with the Women In News programme, Leah explains that when she began in 2010 she wrote up her plans into a career road map. She admits that this piece of paper has come in very handy and is something she can refer to at anytime.

“It helps me to check and refocus. It’s a document that I have come to value because it helps me to gauge where I am. It helps to steer me back into the right direction. Had I not written down what I wanted, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

 


Interview conducted by Phemelo Ramasu.

 

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Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2013-02-26 17:58

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