Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Christopher Mushohwe yesterday said a new media policy would soon be crafted and pledged to continue engaging the media, while also warning journalists to be sensitive when handling issues of “national interest”.
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
Addressing journalists at his Munhumutapa offices, Mushohwe said he now understood the challenges facing media organisations after engaging proprietors and editors.
He said he would soon be visiting media houses to meet with the generality of editorial teams in order to appreciate challenges peculiar to each publishing house.
Mushohwe said he would consult the whole industry to create a media policy in January.
“We expect a high sense of professionalism and sensitivity to matters of national interest. I committed myself to working with proprietors to ensure good practices in the media,” he said.
“However, in the event that the hand of goodwill extended by government is not reciprocated in equal measure, then government will take corrective measures in terms of the law. In January, the whole industry shall be consulted in the context of a retreat at which a new media policy will be debated and framed.”
Mushohwe said he appreciated the newspaper industry was facing stiff competition from new media, but blamed this on poor business strategy, peddling of poor products and self-destructive tendencies.
He blamed the media for negative publicity, which he claimed had resulted in disinvestment, capital flight, company closures and unemployment, which he said had a bearing on business prospects.
“I also put it to them that they had themselves to blame for failing to protect their own business interests and their own investments. I asked them: Who needs a bad Press? Who invests in a bad Press?” Mushohwe said.
“A bad Press is simply bad. It is not good for the country, it is not good for government, and it is bad business. In the three months that I have been in charge of the media sector, I have been struck by the occurrences and intensity of bad Press targeting, in many instances, His Excellency, the President, the First Lady and the two Vice-Presidents.”
He added: “Every day, there is a negative story about one, both or all of them. Every day! What kind of journalism is that? I asked many of my interlocutors. I recalled for many of the media proprietors the following adage: He who owns the piper, calls the tune.”
The Information minister said it was high time media proprietors fulfilled their promise to rein in errant editors and reporters, adding that an adversarial relationship between government and the media could never translate into a thriving industry or country.
He said his ministry was willing to work with private media “which are truly original in thinking and national outlook, not proxies of the West or some NGO [non-governmental organisation]”, as was the situation where independent media routinely countered public media.
Mushohwe said the media had national interests to defend, adding he was committed to de-polarising the media defined on the basis of professionalism and not ownership.
He also blasted leaders purportedly planting stories in the media and warned that the government was on their case.