HARARE – Journalists are a pillar of any society and without them the country’s democratic development is impaired, Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) board chairperson Alec Muchadehama has said.
Speaking at the launch of the Investigative Journalism Fund for local journalists that was attended by investigative journalism trainer Lucinda Fleeson at a local hotel early this week, Muchadehama said journalists are an independent voice for the public.
“Acting as an independent voice for the public, journalists should not be intimidated by power or influenced by special interests, advertisers, politicians or news sources. The independence of journalism must not be compromised by greed and conflicts of interest,” Muchadehama said.
He said the duty of journalists is to hold those in public offices to account, adding that this is critical to democracy and the preservation of human rights.
The year-long Investigative Journalism Fund for journalists is being supported by the US Embassy Public Affairs section.
VMCZ executive director Loughty Dube said the programme will also see 17 journalists attend the Global Journalists Conference to be held in South Africa next year.
“The main reason why the VMCZ embarked on this investigative journalism programme was after a realisation that the media was not carrying in-depth media stories,” Dube said.
The initiative, was preceded by a three-day training workshop headed by Fleeson and Reyhana Masters that was held at Pandhari Hotel and attended by over 17 journalists from different media houses.
Muchadehama said journalists are essential in an open society.
“Their duty is to defend free speech, inform citizens, encourage deliberation on public policy and serve the public interest in the promotion of democratic institutions.
“These duties will sometimes require that journalists expose criminal activity, investigate abuses of power and bring to the fore wrong-doing and shenanigans happening within our midst. That is the nature of journalistic work,” he said.
He further said that journalists need to demonstrate courage and resilience to unearth the truth and deliver accurate stories.
He, however, noted the harsh economic environment, which he said has the potential of affecting the work of journalists and had the power to influence them to neglect their own professional values and affect their ability to remain neutral.