via Take Moyo with a pinch of salt, journalists warned | SW Radio Africa by Mthulisi Mathuthu 11 October 2013
Information minister Jonathan Moyo’s extending of the olive branch to the media is a welcome gesture, but should be taken with a pinch of salt media watchers have warned.
The warning comes at a time when Moyo is touring local media houses urging cordial relationships between the state and journalists, a gesture at odds with his previous no-holds barred stance towards journalists.
Outgoing director of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, Takura Zhangazha, said journalists should be alert to the possibility that the government could be seeking to ‘co-opt’ them as consultants, without them having any meaningful influence.
Writing in his blog spot Zhangazha warned that, ‘after all the hugs and kisses, this newfound relationship with victorious single ruling party policymakers remains one premised on the latter’s benevolence as opposed to common democratic principles and values.’
The local media this week showed a smiling Moyo shaking hands and joking with senior journalists, like Daily News Editor Stanley Gama and Alpha Media Group Senior Associate Editor Iden Wetherell, raising concerns that Moyo could be pulling the wool over his known adversaries’ eyes.
Gama admitted that ‘so many people from around the world’ had quizzed him on his engagement with Moyo. Gama said Moyo appeared to be genuine as he promised to ‘open new broadcasting stations’. The Daily News Editor added that he would for now take the minister ‘at his word’ but remain mindful of the fact that one ‘can’t trust politicians hundred percent’.
Newsday reported Friday that Moyo, during a visit to their offices, made a ‘passionate plea to the media to turn a new leaf and bring an end to the polarisation that has characterised the industry for over a decade’.
Moyo was quoted as saying, ‘polarisation hasn’t been in anyone’s interest’ and that a new leaf had to be turned in the interest of the nation.
This stance is at odds with Moyo’s spell as information minister between 2000 and 2004. During that time a quarrelsome Moyo oversaw the introduction of laws such as the Access to Information and the Protection of Privacy Act as well as the Broadcasting Services Act.
Both laws restricted the activities of journalists and barred new broadcasting players. Capital Radio, later to become the SW Radio Africa, was forcibly stopped from broadcasting, with Moyo playing a major role.
Also during his previous spell, Moyo oversaw the deportation of foreign journalists and the arrests of many local ones, as well as increased control of the public media which routinely abuses opposition members.
Moyo’s gesture is seen in some quarters as in line with ZANU PF’s efforts to win public support by appearing to be conciliatory. Moyo is himself widely seen as a flip-flopper and is a universally known propagandist for whose services Mugabe is reportedly grateful.
Only this week the Independent newspaper reported that Mugabe, during a ZANU PF politburo meeting, credited Moyo with ‘masterminding the party’s landslide victory in the July 31 elections’ which the MDCs attribute to systematic rigging.