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Crisis Report - Issue 216
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
August 29, 2013

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Reform should begin from within – Report

A study commissioned by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) has intimated that the professional conduct of journalists is a critical ingredient in reforming the sector amid revelations of rampant violations of the ethics guiding the profession.

The report titled “The State of Journalism Ethics in Zimbabwe” contends that there is widespread consensus over the fact that the journalism profession in the country is in a state of “moral and ethical degeneracy” as evidenced by the rise of “propaganda journalism” and hence the recommendation that: “To reclaim its lost ethical ground, journalists need to go beyond just introspection. They need to follow this up with creating and fully subscribing to self-regulatory mechanisms which have ‘teeth’.” The report also noted that despite the constitutional protections of freedom of the press and freedom of expression, the policy and regulatory environment remained a key impediment to journalism practice – a fact which has led to repeated calls for media reforms.

The report cites the Director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Nhlanhla Ngwenya emphasizing on the need to adhere to ethics by journalists and commitment to conducting themselves in a professional manner so as not to undermine the efforts being made by media reform activists.

“Once you entrench non-professionalism, it becomes the norm. The problem is so serious that it makes it difficult for us as media reform advocates when we approach state authorities to lobby for self-regulation. They remind us of just how rotten the profession is and justify their reluctance to endorse self-regulation,” says Ngwenya.

The Report optimistically notes that despite the messy state of affairs within the media sector, the respondents in the study expressed confidence that the situation was salvageable as long as there was a strong commitment to ‘introspect’ and engage in a ‘profession wide’ dialogue to inform a positive change in professional conduct.

Like charity that is said to begin at home, the reform agenda of the media sector will most likely be realized if it begins from within as journalists align their conduct with the ethics guiding their profession. In its concluding remarks, the Report reiterates that:

“The profession needs to demonstrate that it can clean the ethical mess itself and use that as a strategy to leverage the state to fully accede to self-regulation”.

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