via Towards redemption for Zimbabwe’s media industry: One on One with Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) Chairperson by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
Following the recent launch of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ)’s report titled “The State of Journalism Ethics in Zimbabwe July 2013”; the Crisis Report sought out the views of VMCZ
Chairperson and veteran journalist Tapfumaneyi Machakaire (TM). Below are his views on the way forward for Zimbabwe’s media practitioners and how journalists can redeem themselves from the follies of unethical conduct that have become normative in the profession.
Crisis Report: According to the report, the standards in the journalism industry have been seriously lowered due to rampant unethical conduct – do you think that the industry can recover?
TM: Yes the industry can recover but a lot needs to be done for that to happen. Politicians should stop abusing and dividing the media into two camps with the public media being forced to regard their role as that of defending the ZANU (PF) government while the private media sees its role as fighting against the ZANU (PF) Government. Media practitioners should realize that polarization of the media was born out of the polarization of the forces behind the media.
Crisis Report: What can be done to facilitate such recovery?
TM: There is need for more workshops that combine journalists from public and private media to deal with issues of ethics, accuracy, fairness, and balance. Journalists who attended workshops that were held before the July 31 harmonized elections from both camps indicated that they are prepared to adhere to ethics.
Crisis Report: What challenges or obstacles are likely to impede this process?
TM: The major challenge is with the Editors who tell them that the story has to have a particular slant against or for Mugabe and his party. The bigger challenge however would be convincing the editors to adopt a professional approach. For a start however, if we can have reporters dishing out balanced stories and avoiding self-censorship, we will have gone a long way towards achieving our goal.
Crisis Report: How can the editors’ cooperation be facilitated?
TM: VMCZ should continue to monitor and expose media organisations that continue to run unprofessional and unbalanced stories and denounce the use of hate language. VMCZ should also emphasize that politicians recognized and accepted their undue interference with the media by including a section in the GPA, which focused on improving professionalism in the media industry.
Crisis Report: Do you think journalists are prepared to restore ethics in the industry?
TM: In the report we released there are comments from journalists from both the private and public media who indicated that they are happier producing balanced stories if something can be done to influence their editors to be professional which I see as a good starting point. Journalists often tell us that they deliberately give the slant just to please the editors and earn a living but will be doing it against their conscience. If you, for instance, are able to read stories that are written by journalists from the public media to the foreign based website masters you can easily tell that they are clearly aware that they are being abused.
Crisis Report: What can be done to ensure that journalists stick to this ethical path?
TM: There is also need for an improvement in working conditions of journalists so that they are not forced into “prostitution” to get the extra cash for survival. I believe that there are very few “bad apples” among our journalists and it is normal under the circumstances to have such individuals. Efforts should be made to convert those and make them realize that their role is to be the watchdog of society and not to be the megaphone of certain politicians. Politicians will come and go and the journalism profession will remain. The VMCZ ethics committee shall continue to preach the gospel of professionalism and advance the one family concept where journalists by adhering to professional ethics become members of one family, the Fourth Estate.