Sliding back

Media hangmen presided over the closure of newspapers, throwing hundreds of journalists and other supporting staff on to the streets.

THE President Emmerson Mnangagwa administration regards the media as one its key pillars with successive ministers on a charm offensive to win the hearts of an industry that has in the past survived under gruelling circumstances.

Living under the then misnamed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) was hell, more so with an abrasive Information minister whose mandate appeared to had been couched to suffocate and decimate the fourth estate, especially the private media.

Media hangmen presided over the closure of newspapers, throwing hundreds of journalists and other supporting staff on to the streets.

Fast forward to the current administration, there has been changes in how it deals with the media.

Successive Information ministers have since 2018 been on a rapproachement drive, inviting journalists to post-Cabinet briefings on key issues the Executive would have deliberated on that day.

That process has tamed the polarisation between State and private media journalists.

Aippa was repealed, paving way for the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act (2020) and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act (2020).

The administration invited input on key legislation that governs the operations of the media industry in Zimbabwe.

The airwaves were freed especially in broadcasting with the licensing of six television players and several community radio stations.

These gains over the past few years signal a brighter future for the media industry.

It came as a surprise this week that former Intelligence minister and now  Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution minister Owen Ncube barred journalists from NewsDay and The Mirror from covering all government functions in the province.

Their crime: Writing “negative stories” about the government. The barring of journalists came despite the duo having been invited by the Gender Commission of Zimbabwe to help to amplify its statement.

That episode evoked memories of the gory past in which journalism was a crime and harassment of the fourth estate, especially the private media, became a hobby for authorities. Is Zimbabwe sliding into the dark past?

We believe this is an isolated incident which will invite rebuke from the principals.

However, if left unchecked, it will open the floodgates on abuse of journalists in their line of duty.

We urge those that are “injured” by our reportage to utilise available platforms for redress.

They can engage the publication or journalist concerned, take up the case with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe and in the worst-case scenario, approach the courts.

We unequivocally state that NewsDay will continue reporting without fear or favour ensuring that the publication and all its platforms carry everyday news for everyday people as our pay-off line boldly declares.

We will continue doing our duty with utmost conviction and boundless enthusiasm.

We take comfort in the words of English novelist George Orwell who said: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: Everything else is public relations.”

We pledge to stay the course, making NewsDay a marketplace of ideas.

History will judge us harshly if we stray from the pledge we made when the first issue of the publication hit the streets about 14 years ago.

Failure is not an option for us.

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