Government has bemoaned media polarisation, saying it is unhealthy and counter-productive, especially as the country heads for the harmonised elections due next year. Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Christopher Mushohwe said this in a speech read on his behalf by his deputy, Cde Thokozile Mathuthu, during the World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Harare yesterday.
“Media polarisation is unhealthy, counter-productive, unprofessional and extremely deplorable,” said Minister Mushohwe. “It does not benefit our nation, but short changes our people by serving them a daily diet of half-baked news and misleading information.”
Minister Mushohwe said he was positive that the coming together of various media associations during the World Press Freedom Day celebrations was going to provide a platform on which to address common concerns.
“This helps to kill media polarisation we are witnessing in our country today and fuelled by partisan interests as political parties begin jockeying for space in the build up to next year’s general elections,” he said.
In attendance were members of the Zimbabwe Editors Forum, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and the Association of News Publishers, among other media organisations and stakeholders.
Added Minister Mushohwe: “I don’t doubt that you will rise to the occasion today and find solutions to this scourge which has afflicted our media each time our nation goes to general elections.
“Allowing our media to be abused by politicians does not help to build a cohesive and professional industry. Such abuse is a bane on our society, divisive and retrogressive.”
Minister Mushohwe narrated details of his meeting with editors two months ago.
“Let me repeat here what I told our editors two months ago by way of emphasis,” he said. “I said that if our media were to be guided by the national interest in discharging their watchdog role as the fourth estate, then we would not experience media polarisation.
“Some among our journalists have argued that they are patriotic and that no one has a monopoly on patriotism and defining the national interest. I have said fine, but to avoid unnecessary confusion and ambiguity about what defines national interest, let us all turn to our Constitution which is the supreme law of the land and imposes obligations that are binding on all of us.
“That Constitution enjoins the State, every citizen of Zimbabwe, including the juristic persons and every institution and agency of government at every level, to promote national unity, peace and stability.
“Surely, no sane Zimbabwean can quarrel about the sanctity of our independence and national sovereignty; dispute our right to self-determination; disagree with national unity and the indivisibility of Zimbabwe; quarrel with the need to safeguard national security; or challenge our right to our national resources; to the promotions and preservation of our cultural values and practices; to the promotion and the advancement of the use of all languages used in Zimbabwe, including the sign language.
“I am convinced that if our media kept these values and principles uppermost on their minds, media polarisation would die a natural death.”
Minister Mushohwe said there was need to revisit the legislative environment to ensure existing laws were aligned with the new Constitution. He said it was also equally important to have more media players coming on board, especially on the side of electronic media.
This year’s commemorations were held under the Unesco theme: “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies.”
The theme was culled from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 16 which relates to the promotion “of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institution at all levels”