Gvt admits local journalists working under difficult conditions

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi            

GOVERNMENT has for the first time admitted the country’s media landscape is constrained with journalists working under difficult conditions.

Information Ministry secretary Nick Mnangagwa told guests at the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) inaugural Investigative Journalism Awards, Wednesday in Harare that however this should not be an excuse for corruption.

“Government also recognises that journalists in the country work under difficult conditions,” Mangwana said.

“Salaries in the media sector are poor, due to the economic environment and conditions of service are not conducive. In that regard, we urge media houses to pay journalists decent living wages and improve their conditions of service.”

Mangwana added: “But this is not an excuse for corrupt activities such as brown envelope journalism where inducements are paid for glowing stories to be written for those who don’t deserve them.”

“That is a serious compromise of ethical standards in the media.”

The permanent secretary called on journalists and the media in general to be professional and serve Zimbabwe.

“To all professional journalists in Zimbabwe you have a duty to serve the nation, as the media you should be fair, responsible and accountable.

“I encourage you never to lose sight of those salient values, it is your duty to protect the integrity of journalism,” said Mangwana.

Commenting on the Cabinet approved framework for the reform of the access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the proposed successor legislation, Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) Bill, Freedom to Access Information Bill and Data Protection Bill, Mangwana said these new laws are meant to democratise media space in the country.

“It is not government’s desire to control the media. But the Constitution places responsibility to regulate (and not control) the media in the hands of ZMC,” he said.

“We however we are not opposed to the media having a bodies that works together with ZMC to regulate media conduct and ethical behavior of journalists.”

He said bodies like VMCZ could work with the ZMC in a peer review cooperation guided by industry code of ethics. Zimbabwe especially under former President Robert Mugabe was regarded as one of the most dangerous places to work for journalists. The situation has not changed much under President Emmerson Mnangagwa with arrests and harassment at political gatherings the norm albeit on a lower scale. Mnangagwa has however promised reforms including repeal of “toxic” laws used by Mugabe to harass journalists.