New Zimbabwe (London)

21 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Corrupt Reporters Demand U.S $2000 to Cover Us, Chinos

BUHERA South Legislator Joseph Chinotimba has threatened to name and shame journalists who demand bribes from him for media coverage, saying the rot was rife in both the public and privately owned media.

The legislator made the remarks as he complained about corruption in the media after storming a meeting of the Information Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) at the Harare International Conference Centre on Wednesday.

Chinotimba said while the media accused government officials of being corrupt and rightly went to town exposing graft in several state-run enterprises, there was no exposure of the rot he claimed to be commonplace in newsrooms.

"You are busy reporting in your papers that Minister so and so is corrupt while not reporting the corruption happening within your profession by some of you," he charged.

"If I want to be covered in my constituency I am told to provide for transport and food for the journalists. They say they want $2,000 from me for them to cover my constituency.

"This is happening at all media organizations, The Herald, The Standard and the Daily News and that money never reaches the Daily News head offices but is consumed by the reporter. Is that not corruption?

"I have the names of the journalists and, very soon, I am going to reveal them. You want $2000 from me and $1 from the sales of your newspapers.

"I need the media to cover critical issues and problems which people of my constituency face and use the evidence from your papers and take it to donors so that the problems are elevated but you demand money from me."

The legislator also accused the media of arrogance and refusing to own up when they get things wrong.

He said while contributing to debate in Parliament on the seizure of some 200 girls by Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram he had said politicians should not abuse and rape children.

However his remarks, which coincidentally followed the arrest of a Zanu PF official on rape charges, were misinterpreted by one of the country's dailies newspaper, he added.

"After the publication of the false story that I was referring to a Zanu PF official who had arrested for rape, I told the newspaper that I did not mention any name but paper refused to retract their story," he said.

"In fact they were arrogant (enough) to tell me that the reporter thought that I was referring to the person they mentioned in their story. The reporter, thinking for me now!?

"They thought I am a fool and I have slapped them with summons and they have them in their pockets as we speak," said Chinotimba, before apologising to the IMPI officials for diverting the agenda of the meeting.

The poorly attended meeting discussed repressive media laws such as Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, sections of the Broadcasting Act of Zimbabwe as well as the licencing of community radio stations.

Meanwhile, on Monday the IMPI panel, put together by Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, got a test of the government's own medicine after Chitungwiza town council officials blocked them from the holding of a meeting at Chemhere Community Hall in St Mary's.

POSA bites government ... Meeting of media inquiry panel blocked at Chitungwiza Hall

The meeting only started three hours later after the Ministry of Information Media and Broadcasting Services intervened.

Council officials refused to allow the meeting to go ahead, demanding a police clearance letter from the IMPI officials, citing the Public Order and Security Order (POSA) under which any organisation intending to hold a public meeting should first secure police clearance.

IMPI officials present included Chris Chinaka, Dr Nhamo Antony Mhiripiri, Fungisai Zvakavapano Mashavave, Constantine Chimakure and Pikirayi Deketeke.

The stand-off resulted in the group and members of the public who wanted to attend the meeting spending close to three hours outside the Hall until the arrival of Collins Mungate from the Information Ministry.

Mungate berated the local council officials and ordered them to open the hall.

"Who do you think you are here? Open the doors now, now! You want to sabotage government programmes? This is not a political party thing, and I am challenging you all here without fear," he charged.

"I do not care who has directed you not to open the hall. Go anywhere even to any government minister and tell them that Mungate is saying this is rubbish. I want to tell you that heads are going to roll here because of this sabotage."

Chinaka, who was chairing the meeting, apologised to a handful of people who had remained at the venue.

"We want to start by apologizing for the delays that had occurred but however, we are here to hear your views, contributions and wishes on the operations of the media in this country," he said.

"Our duty here before you is to listen and write down what you would have said and not to provide answers."

The inquiry panel was established last year by the Information Ministry to promote and elevate the standards of media practice in Zimbabwe.

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