Placing information ministry in President’s office disastrous for democracy – media expert

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PLACING the information ministry under the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) is disastrous for democracy, a media expert and political analyst has warned.

Upon taking over power last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa named loyalist Chris Mutsvangwa information minister but promptly reversed the appointment with the latter becoming a presidential advisor.

The information ministry was then made part of the OPC and is currently overseen by Energy Minister Simon Khaya Moyo in an acting capacity.

However, Harare Polytechnic senior journalism lecturer said making the information ministry part of OPC was politically convenient for Mnangagwa.

The new Zanu PF leader will be looking to seal his legitimacy in elections due by July this year, having assumed power following a military intervention last November.

“When we have a media and information under the office of the president, we have a problem because it becomes an extension of the incumbency’s strategy and gets entangled in their idiosyncrasies,” said Rusero.

He was speaking at a recent media workshop on elections coverage which was co-hosted by the Zimbabwe Union Journalists and Silveira House.

The opposition has, historically, complained of biased coverage by the state media in a country which has one television station which is also owned by the government.

Press freedom activist groups have also repeatedly called for media reforms, including the repeal of draconian laws which impede democracy as well as equal access to the state-owned media by all political parties.

Meanwhile, Silveira House director Father Arnold Moyo reminded media practitioners of the need for ethical conduct and speaking truth to power during the election period.

“That is the fundamental role of the media, to tell the truth,” said Fr Moyo.

“We have to make important decisions in our lives, decisions which determine whether we succeed or not and media shapes these decisions.

“You either aid in the building or destruction of those lives. It’s a huge moral responsibility that should be carried out well. There is no such thing as harmless distortion. Democracy cannot thrive were falsehood is a virtue.”