ZMC threatens to muzzle the press on Gukurahundi

Source: ZMC threatens to muzzle the press on Gukurahundi – NewsHawks

THE Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) chairperson, Professor Ruby Magosvongwe, says media houses which refuse to sign the controversial code of conduct produced by the commission and an unrepresentative clique of journalists will not be allowed to cover the upcoming Gukurahundi outreach programme — a major assault on media freedom.

Magosvongwe said this at a meeting between ZMC and the committee of journalists it is currently working with in Harare on Monday.

The event, dubbed “Gukurahundi media sensitisation breakfast meeting“, was held at the Rainbow Towers Hotel. Previous meetings were held in Bulawayo.

The ZMC and the committee’s process is unrepresentative, does not work through genuine stakeholder consultations and the need to give media open and unfettered access to the Gukurahundi investigation process by traditional chiefs first in Matabeleland and in later the Midlands.

Instead, the process imposes a gag on the media — by design or accident — which was muzzled in the 1980s from covering the grisly Gukurahundi massacres and the resultant genocide.

The move leaves the ZMC and its small clique of journalists open and vulnerable to litigation for trying to undermine media’s constitutionally protected liberties — media freedom and freedom of expression.

Forcing journalists to sign a restrictive code is effectively a gagging instrument in itself and constitutes media tyranny.

The “Gukurahundi Code of Conduct Pledge” produced by the ZMC and an unrepresentative committee of journalists seeks to control the coverage process, access to information and even the language reporters should use, a gross violation of media freedom.

For instance, the code does not want journalists to use words like “genocide” and “massacre” in their coverage, a crude censorship intervention.

Gukurahundi massacres constitute a genocide, specialists in the field have said. Journalists have no intellectual and technical capacity to dispute that.

National Council of Chiefs deputy president Chief Fortune Charumbira has said journalists and security services should be barred from the hearings. The traditional leaders’ body is led by Chief Mtshane Khumalo.

Journalists say Charumbira’s attempt to ban reporters is unconstitutional as it violates constitutionally entrenched freedoms.

The “technical committee”, constituted without broad consultations with various stakeholders and crudely unrepresentative, includes journalists Victoria Ruzvidzo (Sunday Mail), Nduduzo Tshuma (The Chronicle), Zenzele Ndebele (CITE), Annahstacia Ndlovu (Voice of America), Albert Chekai (ZBC), Cris Chinaka (ZimFact) and Monica Cheru (ZimNow).
Yesterday, Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum (Zinef chair) coordinator Njabulo Ncube and Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe director Loughty Dube attended the meeting.
Ruzvidzo is Zinef deputy chair and has the support of her colleagues, except that they feel the process should be more consultative and inclusive.

Ncube is trying to get involved to assist the process to take into consideration concerns raised by mainstream media representative bodies that have not been consulted.

Asked about the meeting, Ncube said stakeholders are “trying to find each other to resolve areas of difference and cover gaps”.

The process also invites all sorts of players, including government, police and constitutional bodies, to endorse the code and effectively dabbles into newsroom operational matters, leaving journalists vulnerable to manipulation and gagging.  — STAFF WRITER.

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