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Friday, 19 March 2010

Poor Journalism (The Post)

The extract below from this Post article certainly puts words in Derek Fee's mouth :

In an interview on Saturday, EU head of delegation to Zambia Dr Derek Fee said the funds were aimed at raising standards at Lusaka International Airport.....He said once standards were raised at the Lusaka International Airport, the country would see the ban of Zambian aircrafts landing in the Euro zone lifted.
The ban is on Zambian aircraft entering the EU. What has that got to do with the condition of Lusaka International Airport? I find it hard to think a seasoned EU delegate would mislead the reporter like that. But, even if this is what he actually said, it is shockingly poor journalism to report the story the way a certain Mutale Kapekele has done. The problem with many of our journalists is that they only report! Never to stop and question whether what they write makes any sense.

As an aside, it is good that the EU is planning to invest €6m to help upgrade "facilities". One hopes that the "facilities" in question are related to the safety issues previously discussed here.

Update (18 March, 2010) : Right to Reply 

I am  extremely grateful to Mr Kapekele for replying directly to the above story. In line with our Right to Reply policy, his response is set out below :
Thank you for the observation on my story. Its good to have critics. But you may wish to know that Zambian aircrafts were banned from landing in the Eurozone because EU inspectors found only three of the expected four local aircraft inspectors at Lusaka International Airport. The facilities at the airport were also judged to be below par and the EU concluded from that that Zambian aircrafts could not land in their territory as the inspectors at LSK did not have the right equipment to certify them safe. I may be a poor journalist in your eyes but I did not put words in Dr Fee's mouth otherwise he would have complained.

Mutale


Update (19 March, 2010) : Response to Mr Kapeleka

I am grateful that Mr Kapekela has responded to the observations raised in my earlier post. I should make it clear that my original concerns, as in many posts I write, related to the style of journalism displayed, and not on Mr Kapekela's own standing as a journalist. This subtle distinction is important to ensure that when such matters are discussed the energies are appropriately focused. I would also point that I have a background in aviation economics and I have worked on European aviation safety policy and legislation relating to both Eurocontrol and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This of course does not matter, what is important is substance.

Mr Kapekela's explanation that "Zambian aircrafts were banned from landing in the Eurozone because EU inspectors found only three of the expected four local aircraft inspectors at Lusaka International Airport" is not valid. Three reasons why I hold this position :

First, the ban is clearly stated that it applies to "All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight of Zambia, including, Zambezi Airlines" . This means that that ban is on aircraft regulated by the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) at the Ministry of Transport. It is ban imposed due to regulatory inefficiencies. It is not airport specific. That means if you run an airline that flies from Ndola or Livingstone but is registered with CAD you cannot fly in Europe. The other point to note is that the ban is explicit to Zambezi airline. This is important because it means it is trans-regional in respect to Zambezi. If tomorrow Zambezi deregistered in Zambia and moved to operate from Malawi it would still be banned. The reason is that this is AN AIRLINE as well as a COUNTRY wide ban.

Secondly, Mr Kapekela notes that "inspectors at LSK did not have the right equipment to certify them [airlines] safe". The local aircraft inspectors are the responsibility of airlines. The safety checks are done by the airlines. This is why British Airways still lands and leaves LSK airport safely! If safety was the responsibility of LSK airport, why are all airlines leaving LSK airport not been banned, including BA? The lack of resources raised by Mr Kapekela simply reinforces the point that the level of safety checks provided by Zambian registered airlines at the airport are poor. It is not the job of Lusaka Airport to provide expertise in safety checks because its business focus is simply to provide the runway and associated terminals. I can assure him that only in situations (e.g. in the USA) where airlines own airports are such issues raised by him relevant. [On airport safety, I am happy to expand on this, but that relates to ICAO safety standards].

Thirdly, aircraft can only be banned from coming into Europe as a result of the airport, if the issues related to security.

I hope that this clarifies my position. I maintain that either Dr Fee misled Mr Kapekela or Mr Kapekela did not report Dr Fee properly. Based on Mr Kapekela's response, I now believe Dr Fee absolutely misled him. The lesson for all of us is that information and experts are at our fingertips and this is why we have this website to help all of us dig deeper that is possible in conventional media.

7 comments:

  1. May be that is the policy of the Post. To some extent, this is reflective of the low standards of journalism by our popular newspaper. The Post is skewed on one side while the public papers are in the other extreme end and Zambians get misinformed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for the observation on my story. Its good to have critics. But you may wish to know that Zambian aircrafts were banned from landing in the Eurozone because EU inspectors found only three of the expected four local aircraft inspectors at Lusaka International Airport. The facilities at the airport were also judged to be below par and the EU concluded from that that Zambian aircrafts could not land in their territory as the inspectors at LSK did not have the right equipment to certify them safe. I may be a poor journalist in your eyes but I did not put words in Dr Fee's mouth otherwise he would have complained.
    Mutale

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think the problem with the article was that it went from point A to point C, instead of from point A to point B to point C.

    Without clarification, the reader would not make the connection between upgrading Lusaka Airport's facilities and the ban from entering the EU.

    It would have been much better to (in as few words as space allow) explain why the ban was in force and how the financing of LA would remedy that.

    I guess readers, like juries, don't like chasms in the story or reporting. You have to lead them by the hand not by dumbing down, but by not skipping any part of the process.

    Just my two cents worth.

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  4. "Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good reporting," -Rupert Murdoch

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  5. And Rupert Murdoch should know, he owns The Sun. :)

    And now he is doing a job on The Wall Street Journal.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mutale,

    I have now responded to your comments.

    See the update in the post.

    Thanks,

    Cho

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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