Government crafting new media policy
THE Zimbabwe government is set to craft a new media policy that seeks to rein in the private media, which it accuses of antagonising the First family and the country’s two Vice-Presidents.
The initiative will be spearheaded by the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Chris Mushohwe, who said that he was eager and extra committed to transforming the media sector.
Addressing journalists at his Munhumutapa Offices on Wednesday, Mushohwe, said wide-scale consultation will begin as early as next month.
“In my interaction with the media proprietors, having listened to some of challenges they were highlighting to me, I also put it to them that they had themselves to blame for failing to protect their own business interests and their own investments,” said Mushohwe.
He further elaborated: “I asked them, who needs a bad Press; who invests in a bad Press? A bad press is simply bad. It’s not good for the country, it’s not good for government, and it is bad business. In the three months that I have been in charge of the media sector, I have been struck by the occurrences and intensity of bad press targeting in many instances His Excellency the President (Mugabe), the First Lady (Grace Mugabe) and the two Vice Presidents (Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko). Every day, there is a negative story about one, both or all of them. Every day! What kind of journalism is that, I asked many of my interlocutors?
“It is high time media proprietors fulfilled their promise to rein in errant editors and reporters. An adversarial relationship between government and the media can never translate into a thriving publishing industry or a country which is positively projected and perceived.
“We are saying to the private media, government is not the enemy. President Mugabe is not the enemy, the First Lady and the family are not the enemy, the Vice Presidents are not the enemies. You have the national interest to defend. Government and indeed my ministry are willing to work with the private media which are truly original in thinking and national outlook, not proxies of the West or some non-governmental organisation (NGO).We want to see a professional media in Zimbabwe, a pluralistic media expressing divergent viewpoints yes, but converging on defending the national interest.
“(Therefore) in January (2016), the whole (media) industry shall be consulted in the context of a retreat at which a new media policy will be debated and framed.”
Mushohwe warned government officials who leak government information to the media saying the net is closing on them.
“I was however, caught flat-footed by some media proprietors who, when I challenged them about the negative stories that come out often in their publications, told me that most of those stories were being planted by some of our own leaders pursuing personal agendas. We say shame to such leaders because they are not different from those using the media as a tool for regime change. Government is on their case as these figures are undermining cohesion in the Party, government and could end up dividing the country.”
The media sector, particularly the newspaper industry, has been bleeding for a long time, largely as a result of low disposable incomes which have been eating into the demand for media products and advertising budgets.
This has prompted players in the industry to institute corrective measures such as laying off journalists and other supporting staff in order to move their businesses forward.
The media houses are experiencing high production costs arising from old and obsolete equipment, high newsprint costs and declining readership.
The industry is also facing stiff competition from the new media as the young generation prefer the new media to newspapers for their daily news consumption.
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette