JOURNALISTS and media organisations have called on the newly appointed minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Jenfan Muswere, to work towards enhancing professionalism, integrity and promoting a conducive media environment.
Muswere was appointed last week, taking over from Monica Mutsvangwa who was posted to the Women’s Affairs ministry.
Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe chapter’s national chairperson Golden Maunganidze said the new minister should be accommodative and be ready to listen to their concerns. Maunganidze is also the Misa regional chairperson.
“We want the new minister to know that we had progressed fairly well with the former minister who used to keep her doors open and ready for dialogue and engagement with the media, especially each time the media would come up with issues, she was ready to accommodate and lend an ear for discussion,” Maunganidze told The NewsHawks.
“So we continue to lobby and seek that trajectory going forward because that is the basis for understanding each other, understanding our concerns and the basis of knowing where we want to go as a country.”
He added: “There should be no issues of polarisation, we do not want them and we want a minister who appreciates issues at hand, and when we are talking about issues at hand at the moment, we would like to press issues of regulation. We expect the minister to continue with the trajectory of coming up with media laws that allow journalists to operate freely and improve access to information by all, safety and security of the media guaranteed, especially by the government.”
Maunganidze said issues of media pluralism and sincere diversity should be considered. George Maponga, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (Zuj) president, said there is a need to continually liberalise the airwaves and to ensure adequate training of journalists in the broadcasting sector so that they are conversant with latest technologies in broadcasting.
“We hope the new minister will carry on from where his predecessor left, especially with regards to progress that has been made in the liberalisation of broadcasting industry in Zimbabwe that resulted in the licensing of new commercial TV stations, community radio stations and also campus radio stations at our universities as part of efforts to entrench the learning and teaching of broadcast journalism in Zimbabwe,” Maponga said.
“We also hope the new minister will tackle the issue of the National Employment Council (NEC) for the media industry. We want a standalone NEC for the media industry, particularly targeting media personnel so that at least big media companies generally have a certain benchmark for salaries of journalists.” Maponga is hopeful that the minister will take the establishment of the NEC as a matter of urgency, saying salaries across the media industry “are actually in a bad state”.
He said if journalists are well remunerated like other professionals it will bring an end to the menace of brown envelopes or chequebook journalism and other corrupt practices that are undermining the integrity of the profession.
“Journalists can also access national resources and venture into areas such as agriculture and mining. Mind you, they have families to feed like any other Zimbabwean so that when we talk about leaving no-one behind the media industry and its workers are not left behind,” said Maponga.
However, he noted that the minister should quickly expedite the enactment of the Media Practitioners Bill which he hopes, among other outcomes, will entrench professionalism in the media industry.
Maponga said there is a need for co-regulation where the Zimbabwe Media Commission will act as a final port of call in the event of disputes, among other issues.
Media Alliance of Zimbabwe programmes manager Nigel Nyamutumbu said top of the minister’s agenda should be a trust-building process in which there are deliberate policies and interventions that restore the credibility of the media.
“The new Information minister comes on the back of criticism of the media, particularly how the state media conducted itself in covering the elections. Media monitoring reports assessed that the mainstream media was biased in favour of the incumbent and that there were challenges pertaining to access to information,” Nyamutumbu said.
“There should be a policy thrust that is based on dialogue and consensus building in implementing reforms aimed at strengthening professionalism and restoring public trust in the media. This will, in part, deal with sustainability challenges that confront the media as a viable business enterprise.” However, he said it is notable that the minister is taking over when the regulators have issued licences to additional players, including community broadcasters — yet they are faced with sustainability challenges.
“Beyond sustainability, the minister should sustain policy dialogues around strengthening self-regulation in a co-regulatory framework, conclude reforms to the Broadcasting Services Act and ensure the operating environment for the media is safe,” said Nyamutumbu. A media lecturer at Great Zimbabwe University, Dr Alfandika Last, said the debate on co-regulation of the media needs to be finalised with urgency.
“We welcome the coming in of the new minister, maybe a new broom may sweep cleaner,” Last said. “Naturally, we expect him to take over from where the previous minister left. The statutory Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) and all the media players, including those represented by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe and some who are not represented, must be represented in discussions that should see co-regulation of the media in Zimbabwe.”
Nkulumani Mlambo, the content manager of the Masvingo-based Midweek Watch weekly newspaper, said in other countries the media is supported by grants, but since the country cannot do that due to the scarcity of resources, there is a need for the new minister to encourage or persuade quasi-government institutions, ministries and the government itself to support the media equally through advertising support.
“This will enable media houses to pay good salaries and be able to retain competent journalists. Of late, most journalists are venturing into public relations, leaving a big gap in the media industry as there are now too many novices, compromising quality,” said Mlambo. A freelance journalist, Sukuluhle Nepa Ndlovu, said there is a need for media reforms that are conducive to both the public and private media, adding there should not be discrimination from government, especially when the media is requesting for information.