‘Govt, media relations improving’
A PANEL comprising journalists, media lecturers and representatives of civic society has noted an improvement in relations between the Zimbabwe government and the media.
The panellists, who met in January this year, under the auspices of the African Media Barometer, lauded Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, pictured, for being “proactive” in engaging with journalists, a development they said was a positive departure from the animosity and suspicion that existed in the past.
“In a summary of their findings on the obtaining media situation, the panellists said there were cases where the minister had intervened to prevent “threatened” arrests of journalists conducting their lawful professional duties.
“Government (weekly Cabinet) briefings are now open to all, and invitations to government functions are generally issued to all journalists and not just the state media,” said the report.
It added that law reforms have since seen the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act.
“In October this year, the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill sailed through the House of Assembly, on its way to the Senate,” the panellists said.
In their findings, which covered the period November 2015 to January 2020, the panellists, however, noted that more needed to be done to foster media freedom and the enjoyment of freedom of expression rights.
“The report, however, notes government threats to clamp down on comments on social media and lack of diversity in the ownership of radio stations and that the content still reflects the hand of government,” reads part of the African Media Barometer findings.
The report also raised concerns over the lack of independence of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, poor media salaries and working conditions, declining journalism standards as well as media sustainability, especially for the print media.
“Despite threats to clamp down on social media platforms, the report says, digital media was assisting ‘under-represented’ communities to tell their own stories. It further notes the government’s increased commitment to move ahead with much-needed law reforms, as a positive development.
“There is also a need to reinvigorate discussions on the establishment of an Employment Council for journalists, invest in training for journalists while also improving collaborations between media houses and training institutions,” the report said.
This comes after the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ ) last week licensed six commercial television stations — ending 60 years of monopoly by the State broadcaster, the ZBC.
Among the newly-licensed stations is 3K TV — a sister operation to Zimbabwe’s iconic and number one business newspaper, The Financial Gazette.
Other licencees are Rusununguko Media, Fairtalk Communications, Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN), Channel Dzimbahwe’s Channel D and Acacia Media Group.
“On the broadcasting front, interviews were conducted by BAZ, following submission of applications for the country’s first-ever commercial television stations,” ABM added.