In John 1:1 (KJV) the Big Book says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
I am not a theologian so I will not attempt to interpret this verse ‘theologically’. Suffice to say, however, that in my considered view I believe the ‘word’ – both written and spoken – is sacred. That is why the courts will jail you for perjury if you lie under oath using the written or spoken word.
Today, May 3, the free world is celebrating the World Press Freedom Day. The United Nations General Assembly, in 1993, proclaimed the day after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)’s conference in 1991 suggested it in response to a call by African journalists who, in the same year, produced the seminal ‘Windhoek Declaration’ on media pluralism and independence.
As we celebrate the ‘word’ let me take advantage to disambiguate the idea behind Muckraking on Sunday. Sometimes I read with glee feedback I get via SMS, online or other social media platforms especially when I speak truth to power. I must confess that I specially enjoy the negative feedback, especially those that attack my person using truthful aspects of my being or pure innuendoes. That tells me that, as they say in Baseball, I have hit a ‘home-run’ – the message has reached home.
Look, these low-lifers, most of whom are faceless as they hide behind pseudonyms because they do not believe in what they say, are disciples of coaches of bad footballers who instruct their players that “If you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg!”
That said, let me deconstruct the DNA – as my good friend the Chaffman Ephraim Munthali across the street would have it – of the column. The column is an irreverent, but respectfully frank, treatise on current affairs. ‘Muckraking’, in its general and ordinary sense – as our friends in the wig would have it – is throwing mud (muck) at each other. I do not believe there can be any reverence in such an act.
So, for example, if the President decides to fly to some routine SADC summit in Maputo when half his country is submerged in water we will not belabour ourselves into looking for a more respectful adjective. We will call such a decision what it is, ‘stupid’. That does not mean we are saying that the President is ‘stupid’. All we are saying is that that particular presidential decision is ‘stupid’.
Indeed when government bails out people from responsibility of loans they not only willingly but forcefully appropriated from a bank we will not hunt for more respectful adjectives such as ‘unfortunate’ to describe such an irresponsible action. We will call it what it is: ‘criminal’, ‘unreasonable’, ‘corrupt’, ‘irresponsible’, ‘senseless’ – add your own!
And some apologists will dub the Muckraker as a ‘fault-finder’ for not praising certain people for doing the right things. But it is not in the DNA of this column to praise people who are handsomely remunerated to do the right things. By the way, they still get handsomely remunerated even if they do stupid things – which, unfortunately, is often!
We want a ‘servant-government’, not a ‘boss-government’; a ‘servant-presidency’, not a ‘boss-presidency’. Bakili Muluzi, for all his faults, did fabulously well in demystifying the presidency. It will be a sad day for Malawi to slide back to those bad old days when we failed to even think independently because we were so collectively stupid we believed that someone as mortal as us was so omnipresent he could eavesdrop on our thoughts!
So, as we celebrate the ‘word’ today, let us also celebrate our freedom to be free from fear of authority. Remember fear is not synonymous to respect.
As Peter Greste, the Australian journalist who spent over a hundred days in an Egyptian gulag, said: “Free media is key to free society, free debate and free ideas.”
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