Ombudsman Martha Chizuma has challenged public relations officers in the country to adhere to professional ethics at all times in order to gain the public trust and confidence.
Speaking at the launch of the Public Relations Society of Malawi (PRSM) code of ethics in Lilongwe, she noted that if the communications specialists cheat, it is their organization’s brand that will eventually suffer.
She indicated that if all professions in the country follow ethics, then inroads will be made in the rotten society Malawi has turned out to be and change the course of things.
“Generally we are at a place in Malawi where there is a great need to set the moral tone for the country and so voices of ethics have to come from all different angles.
“In as far as PR officers are concerned, you are the face of the organisation that you’re representing and being the face of the organisation; if you’re not an ethical person; not only does it affect you as human being but it also affects the brand that you’re representing,” advised the Ombudsman.
She called on them to be truthful and not defend the indefensible as it hurts the organisation and the public and later on backfires.
Chizuma called on the need for a balancing act by being fair to their employers whilst at the same time not depriving the public the truth.
Standard Bank Chief Financial Officer Temwani Simwaka indicated that in any area of work or business, ethics give equal opportunities for everyone to succeed and means doing the right thing at the right time.
“It determines what they can do but also it simplifies decision-making because if you know you’re doing the right thing, you know you’re living within the law and doing good for your organization and the public at large; then life becomes easy, fair and also there is equal opportunity.
“It is very important especially for our public relations people who are the face of the organizations. So if they are unethical even if the organizations are ethical they will be deemed to be unethical and therefore it will find it difficult to do business," said Simwaka.
PRSM President Lewis Msasa believes the launch of the guidelines will enable them adhere to best practices and standards as every profession has parameters in which to operate in.
“We believe that this is going to add value in as far as the organization culture is concerned and it’s even going to change the way people perceive the public relations and communications because most of the people think we are propagandists
“Every time a public relations officer speaks, they think that it’s a lie which is turned into the truth. So what we want to do is to make sure that people are able to appreciate what we do and this can be achieved through a code of ethics and conduct,” said Msasa
He described the ethics as precautionary measures in a profession that is a slightly new with so many of its members coming into it with a background in mainstream media.
Msasa said the transition from a reporter to a news source is challenging but that the guidelines should sensitize its members on the need to work within best practices.
On enforcement, he stated that the ethics were approved by the membership and that they will be asked to sign forms in line with the governing principles.
He acknowledged that much as they do not have the legal enforcement, but there are provisions whereby whoever flouts the regulations will have their membership revoked, taken before disciplinary committee instituted by National Governing Council which will lead to one being cautioned or struck off.
Established four years ago, the country’s practitioners have joined the Global Alliance campaign commemorated under the theme “Ethics Matters”.