Zimbabwe: When Journalists Turn Rogue

27 October 2021

There is a thin-fine-line that separates journalism and intelligence work, both are concerned with collecting information.

For journalism, information that is gathered has to be verified and reported objectively.

In the security and statecraft establishment, information is also gathered, verified and processed into intelligence so that a state makes informed, accurate and judicious decisions.

One common characteristic is that the two deal with information gathering. Journalists are intelligent people, competent and are able to discuss complex issues with great ease.

The years succeeding World War 2 saw an ideological race that was much characterised by the recruitment of double agents from either the US' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or the then Soviet Union's Committee of State Security (KGB).

Even after the end of the Cold War, there are some intelligence officers that also defected and switched their allegiances to where they thought their interests would be secure.

Journalists were during this period recruited to spy on their countries and at the same time intelligence officers were allowed to pose as journalists.

The reason why journalists were recruited was because of their access, insights and confidentiality, desired qualities of a best cover for an intelligence officer.

A post-Cold War world has also altered how wars are being fought, transitioning from military confrontations, ideological struggles to the modern psychological warfare.

Since the turn of the millennium, the psychological warfare phase reached a crescendo as Zimbabwe's private media organisations have played key roles in disinforming, misinforming and misleading citizens about illegal sanctions imposed on the country.

When the sanctions narrative started, the influx of news sites that propagated ideas about sanctions being "targeted", "smart" and "restrictive" became clear on what trajectory the media was going to take.

A lot of media practitioners in Zimbabwe have not had time to read the US' legislation on Zimbabwe sanctions -- the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of December 2001.

It would appear a lot of journalists have been deceived by the 'nice' name of the legislation. The legislation says it is there to "help the people of Zimbabwe" attain "democracy".

Yet, ZIDERA is a document that does not seek to help the people of Zimbabwe attain any form of democracy, but reverse the empowerment gains that have been done by Zanu PF since 1980.

It wages war on the economic institutions of Zimbabwe.

Banks, banking correspondences, imports, health care facilities and all sectors have been crippled. Also, the US' Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has the duty to block companies that want to make economic investments in Zimbabwe.

Facts around the imposition of sanctions by the US in 2001 and the European Union in February 2002 have been distorted nationally and globally.

These distortions happened at a time then US President George W. Bush said "the wars in this world will be fought through the media."

In pursuit of brainwashing Zimbabweans through newsreels and the printed paper, the US and its allies have peddled lies through the BBC, CNN and local media outlets.

This psychological war has also been supplemented by written propaganda using a wide range of political devices such as embassy bulletins, local 'democrats' that received weapons training through the MDC's Democratic Resistance Committees (DRC) and also journalists doing 'intelligence' work for outsiders.

Currently, social media platforms have become more direct information dissemination weaponry adopted to politically condition the citizenry so that they deny the existence of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.

Such a development is giving rise to a campaign to convince Zimbabweans that they cannot govern themselves for the private media has not been collaborating in articulating how sanctions are an onslaught on the country's economic growth and development.

To cause instability, journalists and the private media have been employed to act as spooks, destabilise Zimbabwe, spread disinformation and propaganda against the sovereign state.

The journalists have become 'information vendors', selling all they can for the love of mammon.

Online media outlets have been created in the name of democratising the media space and encouraging a multiplicity of voices, but have become part and parcel of the bandwagon of disinformation.

Their acts have been apparent in the civic organisations too!

A marriage of convenience has also been borne to sail the ideas of civic organisations through journalists.

They have not been objective in unpacking the issues of sanctions for the ordinary person to see. Theirs is a superficial understanding of the ZIDERA and EU sanctions legislation.

They flock and deflect issues by pointing out to corruption. They deny the damages caused by sanctions.

For corruption, the country's chief executive and other arms of the state have not denied its existence. It takes two to tango. Equal effort is required to tackle corruption and condemn sanctions without political affiliation.

As vassals of other men, they turn a blind eye to the reality that Zimbabwe is the most secure and stable country in Southern Africa.

A country that, despite our diversity, has managed to remain in unison against the machinations of the detractor.

Failing to clearly and adequately explain the impact of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe is part of their deliberate script that tarnishes the country and continue polarising the masses.

This is so because journalists, as 'intelligence officers' for the highest bidder, have sharpened their arsenals against Zimbabwe by raising alarm that Zimbabwe is an unsafe investment destination, with a poor human rights record.

They remain resolute and keen to set people against each other.

Reflectively, the tragic events during the 100 day Rwandan genocide in 1994, described as "100 Days of Hell", leading to the massacre of over 800 000 citizens has been said to be a conflict rooted in negative sentiments aired by the media.

In these circumstances, foreign media largely conveyed the false notion of "two tribes of African savages are mindlessly slaughtering each other as they had done from time immemorial".

There is need to reconstruct news dissemination and objectively inform the citizens.

While foreign powers have found it easy to recruit local journalists for their job to misinform, more has to be done to identify the values and ethos of the state and have national consensus, constructively advising and contributing to various national debates.

Some compatriots have become willing accessories advancing the idea of the detractor without a correct dissection and diagnosis of what sanctions are, who they are affecting and why they were imposed.

Private media has failed to go beyond the general.

Such inconsistencies created by local newsmen leaves them pandering to the whims and recruitment initiatives of the detractor.

Zimbabweans, remember, we are one!

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