Recent attempts by President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson and Secretary for Media, Information and Publicity, George Charamba, to gag the independent media, cannot go unchallenged as they have the capacity to trample on the little media freedoms the country had so far enjoyed since the consummation of the inclusive government.
His threats, ignited by the independent media’s recent probe into circumstances surrounding the recent mysterious death of retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru, cannot be taken lightly considering Charamba’s not so media-friendly track record.
Charamba is no doubt a political appointee and a media control freak. He, together with Zanu PF backstage spokesperson former Information minister Jonathan Moyo, banned the BBC, CNN and many other international news channels from the Zimbabwean soil.
The local Press has suffered even harsher treatment under his direction and control; another daily paper Daily News once fell victim to his hammer.
Charamba needs to be reminded that he should stay out of prescribing editorial policies and stylebooks for publications, and directing how certain events ought to be covered.
That is the mandate and preserve of individual publishers and their scribes.
Looked at closely, Charamba’s outbursts might not be empty threats, but smack of some sinister motive and surprise waiting to fly out of his sleeve.
Charamba has boasted about authoring the Orwellian media law, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and the Broadcasting Services Act. He recently told Parliament in no uncertain terms, Aippa was here to stay.
Prior to 2008, through Charamba, the government introduced a State monopoly of radio and television broadcasts.
He has set up bodies that decide on ethics and who qualifies as a journalist.
He still holds sway over who sits on the Zimbabwe Media Commission, Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and many others that directly fall under the State media, despite there being an inclusive government.
But, should that be allowed in a democratic society such as ours? Coming back to the issue at stake, did the two so-called “troublesome” publications have to consult Charamba on what angles to pursue in the Mujuru death saga?
What’s wrong in publishing leading questions to poke readers’ quest for answers?
A few years ago, Zanu PF propagandist and political turncoat Moyo wrote: “Empirical evidence from throughout the world shows that when ruling politicians become nervous about the security of their political positions, they target the Press with reckless abandon.”
Perhaps Charamba would do well to realise that empirical evidence from throughout the world demonstrates how others, even more repressive regimes than the one he is representing, lost the information war.
Other former repressive regimes in the Soviet Union, Poland and Serbia attempted to gag the media, but without success.