By Amon Demba
In the quest to demonise the country’s security forces, the private media have gone into overdrive in denigrating the public media for what they term “downplaying atrocities”.
Some of the reports emanating from that media axis unjustifiably point fingers at the public media for downplaying the so called atrocities allegedly committed by the security forces on innocent members of the public.
The accusations are based on unconfirmed and unsubstantiated reports of rape and torture which authorities have been urging the victims to report to police to no avail.
Agreed, the media play a critical role of educating, informing and entertaining the public. This, therefore, means media play a critical role in the development of any country.
In achieving these roles, the media has to be responsible and this responsibility is achieved through ethical principles that govern journalist’ conduct and operations. Among these principles are the critical aspects of accuracy and fairness.
Calls by the private media for the public media not to downplay the so called atrocities flies straight into the face of ethical journalism.
Investigations and inquiries by relevant authorities have not been reported.
Publishing falsehoods is a criminal offence under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and journalists must always check and verify information before publishing.
Rushing to publish without verification must always be avoided as it may cause alarm and despondency among the population, which itself is a serious security threat. Otherwise, it is justified to speculate that the private media is pursuing a nefarious agenda by publishing unproven stories as facts.
To their credit, the public media refused to be dragged into the pitfalls of sensationalism by sticking to nothing but the truth.
The media must never be pressured by any vested interest or anyone else for that matter, to publish falsehoods, all in the name of “breaking a story”.
Media can be a security threat and history is awash with cases of the local media compromising security through publication of falsehoods.
Examples that immediately come to mind include the publication by the Daily Mirror in 1999 of a false story alleging that a soldier had been buried without a head in Mutare after he had been shot dead in the Democratic Republic of Congo war.
The publication of the story was calculated to cause alarm and despondency among Zimbabweans and thus discredit the country’s involvement in the DRC war.
It is by design that the private media is silent on the violence by the protesters, the looting of shops, beating up of people, yet when it comes to the issue of some violations by the security forces, they go to London and New York about it, blowing their trumpet loudest.
It should be borne in mind that the security forces play a pivotal role in the development of the country and the public media must be commended for practising responsible journalism.
Continuous publication of negative stories about security organisations undermines public confidence in the security establishment and there seems to be a deliberate attempt to push a certain narrative to justify and satisfy certain selfish agendas.