HomeEditorialsThe media must not be messengers of death

The media must not be messengers of death

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During a meeting organised by the Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration (ONHRI) at some village somewhere in rural Zimbabwe, a 71-year-old man was asked if he knew about the national healing organ.

Newsday Editorial

The villager stood up and told ONHRI officials – and fellow villagers gathered in the old classroom block where the meeting was taking place that: “I may lie to you about the organ. I was not yet born when it was formed.”

A widow attending the same meeting was asked what she would need to be healed from and she replied: “My husband”. Her husband was brutally murdered in cold blood at the height of political violence in the run-up to the June 2008 presidential election re-run.

This provides clear evidence that efforts to send the message of national healing have not been successful and also that ONHRI, which has been in existence since the inception of the inclusive government four years ago, has remained largely unknown.

What this means is that we are going into elections without the anticipated ‘changed mindsets in as far as the appreciation of peace is concerned. We are going into elections with the mentality of more terror and also of revenge quite fertile in the people’s minds. Mere calls by political leaders for non-violent campaigning and general peace are not enough to effectively make people appreciate the value of peace.

The people remain defenceless against instigation by unscrupulous power-hungry politicians towards violence. They have not been empowered to understand the consequences of actions driven by a few promises of wealth. They also have personal scores to settle and election campaign will come as good cover to execute revenge missions.

The MDC-T last week recognised the need to attend to issues of national healing and compensation of victims of violence – political and or State-sponsored.

The hope is to heal the festering wounds that continue to threaten peace in this country but then, still this is a promise – to be delivered after elections. Much as the idea is commendable, it will not do much to help the situation in the coming elections.

There is therefore need to give more time towards voter education with focus being placed on the job that the Organ for National Healing has apparently failed to do.

There is need to get the messages of peace by President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Professor Welshman Ncube propagated to the populace in a clear and concise way so that Zimbabweans refuse to lend themselves to violent political projects. The role of the media is critical in this instance. The genocide in Rwanda was blamed on the media and the behaviour of sections of Zimbabwean media does not promote peace at all.

A case in point was a statement in the public media which claimed Coca-Cola branding showing open palms was a clandestine campaign for the MDC-T. The paper reportedly published the statement: “And we all know that the sight of open palms should cause all patriots to break into frenzy and do all they can to defend our sovereignty and other revolutionary whatnots”.

Whatever this is supposed to mean, such statements are dangerous and irresponsible. The media must not allow itself to be used to an extent where they try to cause turmoil by whipping up emotions.

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