It’s a given that freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of a vibrant democracy and a forth arm of government lately and is one mêlée in Zimbabwe that has not been won. There have been spirited campaigns by various players to ensure that journalists and other media workers inform and even lead difficult and controversial conversations of public interest without fearing for their jobs, families, selves or engaging in self-censorship. MISA Zimbabwe played its part, VMCZ even developed a Code of Conduct for Zimbabwean media practioners, ZACRAS played the radio part but journalists have not been adequately resourced to undertake their work freely. As we travel in the digital world, with the Zimbabwean government’s digitalisation progression at a snail tempo, there is need for strengthening the alliance in media.
The alliance is critical to providing citizens of Zimbabwe with access to information and an opportunity to express opinions vital to the functioning of the censored democracy we have within our state. 2018 is a critical jiffy for our nation. We have seen an ever increasing inequality gaps, restlessness among those denied access to fundamental services, amenities, imperative debates and tensions on the meaning and nature of the reforms needed continuing without media transformation and diversity but window addressing in the past few years through licensing some decentralised state and aligned radios. As we move to 2018, we need a media that can offer expression to the full range of voices and facilitate the substantive debates about social and economic future of our kingdom. It’s an urgent matter that cannot be wished away. I am still to witness any such substantial debates even on and especially the so called local commercial radios of our day. I have seen the propagandist programming being chanted out so early and wonder what the future of our nation at large is going to be if we don’t demand and defend the editorial freedom of journalists and other media workers from threats posed by propagandist media managers and owners. As diverse as we are in Zimbabwe, currently we witness multiple versions of truth contest for the expression often in tense and uncomfortable interactions especially in the main print media. I feel sorry for all those who sit in certain media stables who have taken diversity and multiple voices to mean certain permanent aligned political analyistic views. That freedom written and expressed into the foundation of our constitution under section 60, 61 and 62 has already been stolen from us by our fellow power ravenous cadres.
Our country being known with the history of suppression, the hard battles of the past, we have to see the media that engineers and serves as instructive and symbols of a standard of what we yearn our Zimbabwe to be. It’s critical as we move to 2018 to defend and advance media freedom and diversity progressively tackling the challenges we are to phizog. Yes we have to deal with Cyber Security, Secrecy Act, Police and State Intelligence harassment, Defamation, Government funding of pro-media houses even at community levels like Kariba, Mutare, Masvingo, Gweru among others. These threats will always be there to discourage critical and investigative journalism that uncovers information or promotes opinion that threatens the government of the day. There shall be political nosiness in editorial policies with chilling effects on our Chapters 61 and 62 constitutional rights to freedom of expression and media as well as access to information. We need to challenge these threats and move together as one. Let’s push and respect the various sections of media supporting to develop and foster mechanisms that strengthen accountability of the media to the ethics of journalism and to our communities. Together we can make Zimbabweans proud of what they devour daily respecting the natives’ rights to communicate as communication is the foundation of our collective humanity.
We want media that will serve everyone inhabitant, give people a voice, media that is diverse telling our stories from our views, media that is not chained, that which protects and respects our privacy and this can only be achievable if an alliance is formed and nurtured. The exquisiteness of this alliance is that technology and the digital era has brought new information order through cell phones and the internet. I can safely say and have no doubt that social media will be a game changer and those that asphyxiate reality in their media spaces will have to know that the campaigns for media diversity even well announced in the IMPI report gave nativity to community media – media projects, community radios and recently community televisions aimed to bestow voice to marginalised communities serving their information needs and providing platforms for them to express views and participate in the public sphere and that role will definitely be played. Played by social media, whatsapp, facebook, twitter, smartphones. Local media as is known as being material conceptualised, shaped and packaged by people using their own instruments that is language, values, beliefs and is a source of identity and development that enables cultures to thrive. Our alliance in media as citizens is all about networking which is imperative for sustainability, social development and democracy and naturally for the learning process for communities that share universal concerns.
A united citizen and progressive media will resultantly dictate the coming 2018 election road map and its finality contributing significantly to the New Information Order.