The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Journalists As Frontline Soldiers

opinion

Their blood supersaturated with inks, some scribes wantonly take rampant vicious digs at politicians, Government leaders and indivi-duals and then flex their necks all the while purporting their pens celebrate "the noble profession" in which they ply their trade.

Recently the Press in the United Kingdom and upon which Zimbabwe's journalism is by and large modelled, became a subject of a judicial inquiry because of the failure of journalists there to balance enormous power of the pen, which is mightier than the sword, and the public interest. A judge who headed the inquiry recommended the establishment of an independent regulatory authority as a way forward to stop the Press riding roughshod over citizens helpless to protect their own individual and collective interests at the hands of a Press that had progressively grown toxic.

At a recent workshop for editors and reporters, Cde George Charamba, Secretary for Media, Information and Publicity, stated that the Government was prepared to assist journalists come up with a code of conduct which would regulate their operations.

"Prepared to assist" should be seriously viewed as a veiled threat by the Government to put in place a regulatory mechanism for journalists with the latter appearing to own the body to oversee their operational conduct.

What Cde Charamba did not openly state but hinted at is frustration by Government at the manner in which some media organisations appear to promote conflict by their insensitive reporting in which any progressive programme by Zanu-PF -- such as land reform, indigenisation and economic empowerment - are condemned.

Indeed, a stranger to this country might be made to believe that those journalists who demonise the country and some of its leaders are themselves aliens with nothing to lose even if they set the country on fire as they can always go to another country. The pirate radio's "journalists" and their ilks - carefully selected in South Africa, Botswana, United Kingdom and here at home questioned why, for example, the share Ownership Trust under, which mining companies contribute money into a trust for the development of rural communities, "was set up just before the harmonised elections".

The implication by these people is that the Share Ownership Scheme was created to win votes for President Mugabe and his party. But of course, nothing could be further from the truth since developments, all aspects of national development, cannot be halted for fear that the development initiatives are meant to win votes.

Incidentally, and ironically, the broadcasters on that pirate radio station are Zimbabweans apparently recruited and paid to destroy the image of this country in the naïve belief that the masses at home will give credibility to what those fellow Zimbabweans say, balderdash though the broadcasts might be.

At home, journalists and their companies roped into the vilification campaign against their own country by foreigners should regard themselves as an abomination and a disservice to this nation as they are obviously bereft of any hint of patriotism which would otherwise make them defend the state from the external enemy who works with money and moral support in recruiting locals to work against their own destiny. But this pen does not suggest that Zimbabwean journalists should lapdog anyone. On the contrary, a healthy, patriotic press should engage in constructive rather than destructive, journalism, going to the extent of exposing corruption and tribalism among other, social ills to protect our independence and sovereignty.

Contextually, the media in Zimbabwe should put their heads together and come up with a collective modus operandi to guide them in the discharge of responsible journalism with members who willfully deviate from the parameters of a regulatory authority becoming candidates for sanctions ghastly to contemplate.

Journalism as a noble profession should be made always to fit into that reputation. Moreover, as "watchdogs" of society journalists should be by definition frontline soldiers in the defence and protection of a country, its innocent institutions and individuals.

Yet, as aforesaid, many writers in this country and elsewhere-abroad kowtow to imperialism, running with the hares and hunting with the hounds, thereby turning their pens into assault riffles at personalities and institutions targeted for attack. Obviously, the rot can not be expected to continue with responsible people folding their arms as if nothing is wrong.

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