HARARE – The Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Jonathan Moyo, has started his new tenure in government on a surprising and refreshingly sound footing, sending firm and welcome indications that he intends to work well with the entire industry this time around.
This is despite the pathetic efforts of a few dinosaurs within the industry who have attempted to set up the minister against the independent media such as the Daily News using well-worn methods.
Shame on these desperate megalomaniacs of yester-year. The bus has left.
Most commendably, the minister — together with his deputy Supa Mandiwanzira — has very quickly indicated that he intends to do things differently this time around, embarking on a much-needed and even-handed fact-finding mission to establish the state of health of the industry, with the ultimate aim of trying to come up with measures that will assist the sector.
Although we are not naive to think that we will always see eye-to-eye with the minister, the government and the ruling Zanu PF party — and indeed should in fact never do so if the interests of democracy are to be served optimally — we are hopeful that this spirit of maturity and mutual respect for our important respective roles will be a feature of the industry’s relationship with the state from now on.
Indeed, the experience of the past decade, where there was a hyper toxic and unnecessarily adversarial relationship between the government and the private media, with the state tending to see the independent media as the enemy of government, did not serve anyone’s interests — least of all, the citizens of this country.
Quite to the contrary, we believe that the unjust shutting down of the Daily News by the government in September 2003, for nearly eight years, contributed to the sharp political and economic decline that afflicted our country during that mad period.
To that extent, it is good to see that there is now an apparent appreciation that Zimbabwe should not walk down that path again.
It is even more important this time that media brands such as the Daily News are allowed to tell it like it is, without fear or favour, because democracy thrives the most when there is a rich marketplace of ideas within the body politic that the media can help to disseminate and interrogate.
We are hopeful that this is the context and the spirit in which the minister visited the printing presses and offices of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday, on Tuesday: recognition that the media are as important a pillar of democracy as the government, the legislature and the judiciary.
In addition, and as pointed above, the necessary fact-finding mission was to establish the state of health of the local media industry.
Thankfully, we at the Daily News have fared much better than many of our competitors despite having had to re-launch our operations from scratch two-and-a-half years ago and competing against players who never suffered forced state closure — and all without donor funds!
The minister recognised these achievements during his tour acknowledging that ANZ had a modern set-up and an impressive human resources base which includes many graduates from the country’s top universities who could compete favourably with the very best in the world.
Hear, hear and may this co-operative spirit long continue.