Media must reclaim its space in promoting national interest
Peter Matika, [email protected]
GOVERNMENT has rallied the media to reclaim its space in promoting the national interest and commended players in the sector for demonstrating a higher level of responsibility in the coverage of this year’s harmonised elections in August.
Addressing participants to a two-day Post-election National Review Indaba being hosted by the Zimbabwe Media Commission in Bulawayo, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Dr Jenfan Muswere said yesterday that the media plays a crucial role in driving national development.
In a speech read on his behalf by Mr Jonathan Gandari, the chief director in charge of Government messaging in the ministry, Dr Muswere said the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa has made huge strides through engagement and re-engagement of Zimbabweans among themselves and also with the international community.
He made reference to a media conference held in June this year where players in the media sector agreed on standards to abide by during the election period, which culminated in the adoption of a national ‘‘Media Pledge’’. “Today as per the resolutions of that Indaba, the conduct of the media is thus being reviewed,” said Dr Muswere.
“We are impressed that the Government’s call for a responsible media is being exercised and we are all witnesses to that. The importance of national interest has already been emphasised by His Excellency, President ED Mnangagwa.
The President is on record calling upon the media to be responsible and to always seek to unite the people in the country to buttress the ongoing socio-economic progress in the country.
Dr Muswere said Zimbabweans have entrusted the media with the responsibility of keeping them informed to enable them to make informed decisions.
“We are committed to shunning the unprofessional practices we have seen sadly emerging in some corners of our society — misinformation, disinformation, fake news, etc,” he said.
“All such habits are dragging the good name of our profession into disrepute. My ministry is also well informed of the efforts by different stakeholders to support the values espoused in the pledge and create a safe working environment for our media practitioners,” said Dr Muswere.
He said that ZMC and partners like UNESCO play a significant role in capacity building through training in elections reporting and peace journalism. This has seen more than 1 000 journalists being trained.
“For the first time in years, we have had elections in which journalists have not complained of arrests and restrictions in executing their duties,” said Dr Muswere.
“This is in keeping with the policy of the Second Republic to provide safety for all citizens including our journalists. The ZMC must also be commended for the distribution of media jackets, which enhance the safety of our practitioners”.
Dr Muswere urged stakeholders like the ZMC to continue to develop standards and ensure that we can all speak from the same platforms.
“This is not to say that all of us should write the same stories in the same way, not at all, diversity and media plurality must be celebrated and encouraged.”
Minister Muswere said stories that responsibly criticise the Government were welcome as they help policymakers to reflect and grow.
He, however, said the Government does not accept the spreading of blatant lies masked as journalism. In order to remain relevant, the Dr Muswere said media organizations must consider major business elements. These include content conversation to lure back audiences and using modern technologies to enhance packaging.
Consideration should also be given to media business modelling to ensure sustainable revenue generation and for the industry to remain on its feet.
Dr Muswere also said sensitivity to news media distribution platforms was critical as well as improving the welfare of media workers.
“The sector should not be a breeding ground for poor staff members. How can we make sure that media workers do not live below the poverty datum line?” he said.
“Where are we putting our money? In the pockets of corporates or in the pockets of our workers? Both the management and the workers at the shop floor level deserve dignified lives,” he said.