‘Restrictive media regulation undermines public trust in media’

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BY STAFF REPORTER
AMERICAN media lawyer, Denise Leary has cautioned the Zimbabwean government against imposing restrictive media regulation, saying it has a bearing on freedom of speech and the media.

The former National Public Radio Attorney and deputy head of programming, Leary made the remarks during a Twitter Spaces discussion hosted by the United States embassy in Harare on Wednesday.

The discussion dissected journalism standards across the globe, and noted how ethics had evolved over time- from the September 9, 2001 attacks in the US to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Leary said restrictive media regulation undermines public trust in the media.

“Whenever (media) commissions are set up, you know we are talking about ethics and trust that is going to reflect what the prevailing public standards are, and of course, that is very much tied to public trust,” Leary said.

“You have to watch that the standards are not too restrictive and are flexible enough for news organisations to make mistakes as they try to report accurately.”

Zimbabwe recently enacted the Freedom of Information Act as part of a corterie of media reforms.

Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) director Loughty Dube and Jasper Mangwana of the Zimbabwe Media Commission were part of the panel which also focused on ways to keep news organisations honest and accountable.

Dube said the VMCZ had since 2007 pioneered media literacy initiatives to enhance public trust in the media as well as working to build the capacity of news organisations to report effectively.

Moderater Meg Riggs, who is also public affairs officer at the US embassy, said ruthless imagery depicted in the media had an effect on public participation in democratic processes.

“So instead of getting an engaged citizenry who feels informed and empowered, you get an enraged citizenry that feels at best apathetic and at worst pessimistic about being able to make a difference,” Riggs said.

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