Zimbabwe: Media's Crucial Role in Zim Asset's Success

The media has been variously described as the Fourth Estate, agenda setter, watchdog, force multiplier and gatekeeper, all in an effort to demonstrate their influence on all spheres of human endeavour.

In view of this, the media in the stewardship of responsible practitioners and proprietors can play a crucial role in the successful implementation of the national economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset).

The use of the media all over the world has contributed to the economic growth of nations.

For example, the media contributed to the rapid economic development of countries like Taiwan and South Korea.

The role of the media was underplayed in the Zim Asset. As noted in the document, it is undisputed that peace, security and defence are key drivers in ensuring a conducive environment for macro-economic growth as they are important in protecting the country's socio-political environment, sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, in this day and age of information superhighway, the pen has become mightier than the gun.

Thus, in addition to peace, security and defence, the media also comes on board as a crucial institution in ensuring the environment is right for implementation.

Among the broad assumptions of the Zim Asset which will anchor the growth of the economy is the increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

It therefore, requires an enabling environment for this investment to flourish.

The media has the potential to make or mar the enabling environment for investors through responsible or irresponsible reporting.

Sensational headlines which scare away potential investors are teeming in some of the local newspapers.

Of late, the magnitude of corruption has been exaggerated in the media to an extent that a false impression has been created of a country which condones vice. The consequences of such reportage are disinvestment, capital flight and the total failure of Zim Asset.

While the media have the right to freedom of expression, such right must go with corresponding responsibility. If the news is not well-balanced by taking cognisance of national interests, such news is devastating on Zim Asset.

The influence of the media on the success of the policy framework depends on the media themselves.

They are the gatekeepers who should responsibly filter what should get to the public. Zimbabwe can quickly, with the permissiveness of the media, be thrown off balance if information purveyed is a judgemental distortion of reality and fact.

It is unfortunate that the local media has taken a cue from the Western media where misinformation about Zimbabwe has become a growing industry.

There are numerous unethical practices by the local journalists bordering on oversimplification, exaggeration, outright sensationalism, suppression or outright distortion of facts and political partisanship.

Paradoxically, the western media, despite ideological differences are very sensitive to their national interests and in most cases they take their governments' leads in their reportage.

The success of Zim Asset also hinges on the decisive eradication of corruption and fostering of good governance in both public and corporate sectors. The watchdog role of the media in this regard needs not to be overemphasized as they are exceptionally exposing the vice.

As corruption and other malfeasances are inimical to sustainable socio-economic transformation, the media, as the public eye and ear must ensure that individuals and institutions who are supposed to serve the public remain transparent and are held accountable.

The watchdog role of the media can even contribute to the ousting of corrupt leaders.

The Watergate scandal that resulted in the resignation of US President Richard Nixon was the product of the initiative and enterprise of the media, and so were the Willowgate and the recent salarygate scandals.

Although the media have done well in exposing corruption, they have excessively banged the drum to an extent that it has become a threat to Zim Asset.

The media have drawn public attention away from other aspects of Zim Asset that require action. To some extent, corruption is being played out as part of the arsenal of political contestation.

The amount of time given to an issue in the press affects the level of importance assigned to that issue by the media.

The coverage of the Zim Asset by the media is not commensurate with its importance.

The media must sensitise the public on government programmes that are geared towards the implementation of Zim Asset.

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