Remarks by U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Martin Dale at the Investigative Journalism Training

Remarks by U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Martin Dale
Investigative Journalism Training
American Corner-National Institute of Public Administration
Lusaka, Zambia
September 25, 2019

Good morning!  Welcome to the American Corner at NIPA.  Thank you to Bill Hinchberger for taking time out of his schedule to train journalists in Ndola, Solwezi, and Lusaka over the past week.  Moreover, I wish to recognize the selected participants for this training and I want to thank you for investing the time in yourselves to become stronger journalists. Your work is critically important to your communities and to your country.

We know that working as journalists in Zambia is not easy.  You must deal with limited resources and a challenging, competitive environment that may prevent you from focusing in depth on issues that matter.  We also recognize the effort that you undertake to achieve higher journalism standards.  We hope that this training will add to your tools for in-depth story production and help you write stories that are compelling, fact-based, and hold government and other leaders to account.

While you may face challenges as journalists, you also have exciting opportunities to tell Zambia’s story.  You can tell the world about Zambia’s successes, such as the progress towards HIV epidemic control and the stories of hardworking public servants, entrepreneurs, and community activists who are tirelessly seeking to improve the lives of the people and the country around them.  At the same time, you can highlight some of the nation’s challenges like energy and food insecurity, gender-based violence, and government corruption.

It is important to remember that in many ways you set the agenda for Zambia. When Zambians are sitting around their dinner tables discussing the fundamental political, economic, and social issues affecting their lives, their bank accounts, and the choices they make for their children, you are shaping those opinions.  It is therefore imperative that journalists like you acquire and refine the skills to report the stories that matter to Zambia’s citizens.

At the U.S. Embassy, we will do our part to help.  In addition to offering trainings like this one, we work every day to encourage our counterparts in the Zambian government to limit restrictions on the press and to expand the space available to civil society.  We know that you must be empowered to write where your stories lead you, without fear or favor, or threat of prosecution.

I would like to say one final thing: have courage, and not just physical courage, although that may be required at times.  Your jobs require courage every day.  It requires courage to ask a powerful person that tough follow-up question, knowing that asking it may limit your future access to information or even threaten your career.  But asking that tough question is still necessary.

More than anything, your job is to hold your government and other leaders accountable, and to expose the fraud, waste, and corruption that corrode any society.  This is the essential role of a free press as the fourth estate, and it is fundamental to a functioning democracy.  If you don’t ask those questions, and write those stories, nobody else will.

Thank you again for being part of this training today.  We wish you the best.