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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Towards redemption for Zimbabwe’s media industry: One on One
with Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) Chairperson
in Zimbabwe Coalition
September 11, 2013
this article on the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition website
recent launch of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ)’s
titled “The State of Journalism Ethics in Zimbabwe July 2013”;
the Crisis Report sought out the views of VMCZ Chairperson
and veteran journalist Tapfumaneyi Machakaire (TM). Below are his
views on the way forward for Zimbabwe’s media practitioners
and how journalists can redeem themselves from the follies of unethical
conduct that have become normative in the profession.
Report: According to the report, the standards in the journalism
industry have been seriously lowered due to rampant unethical conduct
- do you think that the industry can recover?
Yes the industry can recover but a lot needs to be done for that
to happen. Politicians should stop abusing and dividing the media
into two camps with the public media being forced to regard their
role as that of defending the Zanu-PF government while the private
media sees its role as fighting against the Zanu-PF Government.
Media practitioners should realize that polarization of the media
was born out of the polarization of the forces behind the media.
Report: What can be done to facilitate such recovery?
There is need for more workshops that combine journalists from public
and private media to deal with issues of ethics, accuracy, fairness,
and balance. Journalists who attended workshops that were held before
31 harmonized elections from both camps indicated that they
are prepared to adhere to ethics.
Report: What challenges or obstacles are likely to impede
The major challenge is with the Editors who tell them that the story
has to have a particular slant against or for Mugabe and his party.
The bigger challenge however, would be convincing the editors to
adopt a professional approach. For a start however, if we can have
reporters dishing out balanced stories and avoiding self-censorship,
we will have gone a long way towards achieving our goal.
Report: How can the editors’ cooperation be facilitated?
VMCZ should continue to monitor and expose media organisations that
continue to run unprofessional and unbalanced stories and denounce
the use of hate language. VMCZ should also emphasize that politicians
recognized and accepted their undue interference with the media
by including a section in the GPA, which focused on improving professionalism
in the media industry.
Report: Do you think journalists are prepared to restore
ethics in the industry?
In the report we released there are comments from journalists from
both the private and public media who indicated that they are happier
producing balanced stories if something can be done to influence
their editors to be professional which I see as a good starting
point. Journalists often tell us that they deliberately give the
slant just to please the editors and earn a living but will be doing
it against their conscience. If you, for instance, are able to read
stories that are written by journalists from the public media to
the foreign based website masters you can easily tell that they
are clearly aware that they are being abused.
Report: What can be done to ensure that journalists stick
to this ethical path?
There is also need for an improvement in working conditions of journalists
so that they are not forced into "prostitution" to get
the extra cash for survival. I believe that there are very few "bad
apples" among our journalists and it is normal under the circumstances
to have such individuals. Efforts should be made to convert those
and make them realize that their role is to be the watchdog of society
and not to be the megaphone of certain politicians. Politicians
will come and go and the journalism profession will remain. The
VMCZ ethics committee shall continue to preach the gospel of professionalism
and advance the one family concept where journalists by adhering
to professional ethics become members of one family, the Fourth
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