SPEAKING at the Zimbabwe Community News awards ceremony in Harare last Friday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Kindness Paradza said government was very much committed to making sure that journalists discharge their duties without fear or favour.
“Zimbabwe, under the second republic, has made the safety of journalists an issue of high priority. We do not condone any acts of violence against journalists. Government, under the able leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is committed to provide a safe operating media environment and ensure that media practitioners exercise their duties freely without any harassment from anyone or any court,” said Paradza.
This is, indeed, very good news from government and a very welcome assurance, especially as the country heads for general elections later this year.
Without unnecessarily reminding the minister of what happened most of last year when journalists were hounded, beaten up and intimidated by alleged ruling party hoodlums, we would like to say that we will keep reminding him of this very important promise he has made on behalf of government each time there is breach or threat of breach of this commitment.
It is quite sad that since independence in 1980, journalists have been viewed as enemies of the State worth of annihilation by all means possible, yet they are a critical part of any nation worth its salt.
In an ideal society, which we sincerely hope Zimbabwe is actively aspiring to be, the media acts a watchdog of the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature; hence the title the Fourth Estate.
Without the scrutiny of the Fourth Estate, the three pillars of the State can easily abuse their authority, which is detrimental to any nation’s hopes of developing in any direction.
In Zimbabwe, there have, unfortunately, been spirited attempts to muzzle the media and ruthless gouging out of its eyes so that it becomes blind to the many ills afflicting the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature.
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And among these ills have been corruption, human rights abuses and outright disregard for the rule of law.
And as the country heads for elections, it is hoped that, riding on government’s assurance that journalists will be protected in their line of work, we sincerely hope that members of the media will not be hounded for exposing would-be malcontents who might want to sneak into the country’s leadership in order to plunder national resources for personal gain.
It is also hoped that government will protect members of the Press whenever they are bullied for pointing out flaws and irregularities in the electoral processes.
It is again hoped that government will — without fear of favour — come to the rescue of journalists each time political parties (especially the ruling Zanu PF party), in their overzealousness to wrest State power, attack members of the Fourth Estate during their day-to-day efforts to fairly, honestly and impartially scan the electoral playing field and processes.
We again remind Paradza that we will not hesitate to remind him of his and government’s commitment whenever the journalists’ rights and lives are being violated or endangered.