Information ministry permanent secretary George Charamba seems to have seen the light on the operations of the media, albeit belatedly.
As the English axiom says, better late than never, and we hope his overtures to the media, particularly on the security sector, are the beginning of better relations between journalists, on one hand, and the government and securocrats, on the other.
Charamba has in the past issued chilling threats to the media on how it was reporting on the “sacrosanct” security sector, but he has recently been singing a different tune, calling for dialogue between the two sectors and we hope this spirit of engagement is deepened.
As far as the media are concerned, no sector is free from scrutiny and we should report without fear or favour, as long as we do so within the confines of the law.
However, the message from the Information ministry was that the security sector was out of bounds, with Charamba issuing a chilling warning that journalists could be imprisoned while authorities sought their sources.
We are glad that Charamba wants to initiate dialogue between the media and the security sector, as this can only improve our reportage and benefit our readers.
We do not pretend to know everything, but if there are clear lines of communication between those in power and those in the media, we feel the nation would be better served.
There is an unhelpful message within some circles that the private media are hell-bent on fomenting chaos; to the contrary, just like everyone else, we yearn for a better Zimbabwe that promotes an enabling environment for business and the media.
We hope the discussions between the media and any sector of government will commence as soon as possible. However, what we will not appreciate are overlords, who will try to tell us how to report and what not to write.
One of the issues we regard as sacrosanct is our editorial independence, where we will write what we think is newsworthy as long as it is within the confines of the country’s supreme law, the Constitution.
Going forward, our advice to government officials is that making threats against the media is not only unhelpful, but it fosters an environment of hostility and suspicion.
Instead of focusing on their work, government officials begin to keep unnecessary grudges and this could lead to intimidation and uwarranted arrests of journalists.
While authorities may think they have made their points, media threats and arrests only help to sully the country’s image abroad, firmly associating the term “pariah status” with Zimbabwe.
We hope Charamba is genuine in the overtures he has made to the media on reporting about the security sector and we hope this encourages openness and accountability from other government ministries and departments.