A long way out of the woods for Zim journos

ZIMBABWEAN journalists join the rest of the world today in celebrating World Press Freedom Day amid a deteriorating working environment.

ZIMBABWEAN journalists join the rest of the world today in celebrating World Press Freedom Day amid a deteriorating working environment.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic headwinds have combined to throttle the growth of the media industry.

This is seen in a drop in newspaper sales and declining advertising spend by corporates as they adjust to the new economic realities.

This has resulted in low salaries as media houses cut the coat according to the size of the cloth.

The industry is also battling theft of content by “content aggregators” who steal its sweat, package it and “smile all the way to the bank” without investing anything on content generation.

 Their only investment is access to the internet.

The content is then shared in WhatsApp groups. We are putting those “content aggregators” on notice.

Journalists have also been subjected to harassment during the course of their work.

Journalism is not a crime as journalists will be merely doing what they are employed to do and also playing their role as the fourth estate.

In February, Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution minister Owen Ncube barred  journalists from NewsDay and The Mirror for allegedly writing negative stories raising fears of a return of the dark days in which journalists from the private media were barred from government events.

This came as a shock as there were signs of improved rapprochement between government and private media following the battering of relations at the turn of the millennium.

American third President Thomas Jefferson underscored the role of the Press.

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” he said.

To those in positions  of authority we offer free advice: you will not be in those positions forever.  History has shown media hangmen going to the same media organisations they harassed to get a voice after being kicked out of the system.

This year’s Press Freedom Day celebrations come on the backdrop of some reforms implemented by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to make the environment conducive for the journalism fraternity.

The repeal of the misnamed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act paving way for the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act (2020) and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act (2020) is one of the gains that have been realised by the new dispensation.

Cabinet on Tuesday approved the Principles of the Media Practitioners’ Bill which seeks to professionalise media practitioners and define media practitioners, and will allow the independence and co-regulation of the media practitioners. It will create the Zimbabwe Media Practitioners Council, responsible for the regulation and enforcement of professionalism among all media practitioners. The Media Council will use delegated power from the Zimbabwe Media Commission to discipline its members.

The Media Practitioners Council will also deal with conduct and ethics. Media practitioners or councillors will be elected and will include nominees from the Editors’ forum, public media institutions, private media institutions and academic institutions.

The licensing of six new television players and several community radio stations is a major step towards freeing the airwaves and creation of plurality in the broadcasting sector.

We are alive to the challenges facing the media industry but we restate our pledge to make NewsDay a newspaper for everyone in line with our pay off line “Everyday news for everyday people”.

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