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state of journalism ethics in Zimbabwe
Media Council of Zimbabwe
August 28, 2013
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This study represents
an attempt at taking stock of the health of the journalism profession
in terms of ethical norms and practices in Zimbabwe. It is informed
by the view that journalism plays a critical role in social and
political processes and practices, and that despite the numerous
shifts that have taken place to the profession partly because of
the Internet and other information and communication technologies,
journalism ethics still represent a key legitimating factor in the
relationship between the profession and the broader society.
The study is based primarily
on qualitative interviews with local journalists and civil society
actors whose work involves journalism and media. A secondary methodology
involves close scrutiny of documentation on the socio-political
economy of journalism practice in the country as well as elsewhere.
The critical aim is to
get one’s finger on the pulse of the ethical well-being of
the profession, and doing so through dissecting the narratives that
emerge from the journalists themselves. While by no means exhaustive,
it provides an insightful entry point into the state of the state
of the so-called ‘noble profession’, a situation which
all the journalists interviewed agreed was far from healthy. The
terminology they deploy paints a rather gloomy picture from “intensive
care” to “crisis”, from “terrible”
to “gone to the dogs”.
Milder assessments simply
refer to a profession that is facing “grave challenges”.
But then, to paraphrase
the late Chinua Achebe, we perhaps need to step back and establish
the point at which ‘the rain began to beat on us’ i.e.,
how, when and why did the profession become what it is now. Here
the accounts vary.
Older journalists who
practised in the early independence days of the 1980s through to
the turbulent 90s and who have lived to see the ‘crisis now’
paint a fairly nolstagic picture of the 1980s and early 1990s when
journalist still enjoyed significant agency visa-avis the constraining
whims of the principals, whether political or corporate.
The journalistic autonomy,
include financial autonomy given that the pay check was ‘much
better’ then, is viewed as a central pillar to ethical practice.
They point to 2000 as the annus horibilis of the profession, although
not necessarily out of its won making. The governing Zanu-PF party,
facing the most serious threat to its political security from the
then newly formed MDC, reconfigured the state in profoundly authoritarian
ways, creating a ‘military style’ cabinet whose public
face was a Minister of Information and Publicity with extended powers
to destroy journalistic autonomy both in the public and private
the VMCZ fact
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