Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa yesterday launched the Rotary/Makerere Peace Journalism training programme which is the first of its kind in Zimbabwe.
Makekere University is in Kampala, Uganda and is one of the continent’s leading tertiary institutions.
Speaking at the launch which was held virtually, Minister Mutsvangwa said journalists must actively participate in the pre-emption, containment and de-escalation of possible incendiary situations through carefully crafted messaging.
Journalists were supposed to recognise that their profession was not divorced from social realities within which it operated.
“We do not want such in Zimbabwe or anywhere else in the world. Our media must be responsible because they have the power to uphold peace or throw it away at the tip of the pen.
“As the old adage goes, the pen is mightier than the sword and indeed journalists must understand this power and develop attitudes that ensure that peace is upheld at all costs.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said peace among Zimbabweans was key to attaining an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
Government would work tirelessly to ensure the dream came true by rendering undivided support to the initiative as it marked an important step towards achieving that objective.
“To this end, the Government’s initiative of establishing community radio stations across the country creates a structural framework on which cooperative engagement of communities can be founded.
“This will further entrench the capabilities of response mechanisms to contain conflict at that level towards strengthening peace.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said in every part of the world, reliable, accurate and objective media could help prevent and resolve conflicts.
The function of responsibly disseminating information, increasing awareness and knowledge, promoting participatory and transparent governance and addressing perceived grievances, was key towards this end.
Minister Mutsvangwa said to date, a few journalists had been trained in peace journalism and were not well equipped to report on issues that had consequences for societal peace.
Training of journalists in conflict-sensitive reporting was imperative because journalists covering sensitive social issues such as elections, were inescapably involved in the events and processes they were reporting on.
“There is an urgent need to inculcate peace journalism as a major module in foundational journalism and media training at educational institutions across the country.
“This training programme has also come at a time Southern Africa is reeling from the conflict situation in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, social unrests in South Africa and some simmering tensions in Swaziland.
“These conflicts or threats of violence have undermined regional efforts at peace-building.
“How the media handles such issues will bring lasting peace to the region. In the globalised community, we now live, the Zimbabwean media is a key player in ensuring peace in the region.”
She said peace journalism was not supposed to be defined as censorship, but was about preserving the peace dividend.
Minister Mutsvangwa said it was an honour for Zimbabwe that the Makerere University’s Rotary Peace Centre identified Zimbabwe as one of the centres to develop peace journalism.
“This recognition could not be any more befitting for the country given that it is one of the nations that value the contribution of journalism to national development as clearly shown by the establishment of numerous journalism training institutions in the country.
“Indeed, over the years, the nation has produced competitive journalists who have excelled at their jobs locally and abroad.
“Beyond this, we have also witnessed a proliferation of media houses, especially online, bearing testimony that the graduates from our institutions are ready to conquer the world.
“This has resulted in a robust media-scape that is healthy for pushing the national economic development agenda and keeping the nation informed.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said the new programme offered new prospects and challenges especially with regards to the responsible sharing of information.
“I hope that the eminent scholars who will be leading this training programme will break the subject into digestible morsels for the benefit of all. I also hope that journalists who will be produced by this training will be vigilant sentinels for peace.
“Let me also take this opportunity to encourage media houses to introduce continual on the job training for their journalists, with emphasis on professionalism and reporting objectively to build a prosperous Zimbabwe we all want,” she said.