Media challenged to be pro-development Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa

Bulawayo Bureau

The Government has said the media cannot be bystanders in the country’s development agenda and has to be responsible and ensure that it does not hurt brand Zimbabwe in its reportage.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said this yesterday in Bulawayo as she delivered her keynote address during the two-day Africa Journalism and Media Summit.

The summit is running under the theme: “Journalism and Democracy in ‘Post-News’ World: Promises and Perils”.

Media players, academics in the sector, media start-up companies are attending the summit, which seeks to unpack challenges and opportunities affecting the journalism fraternity in the information age.

The advent of social media has brought challenges to the media industry which has seen the proliferation of fake news particularly by online publications while print is recording a decline in sales due to the digital migration of readers.

In response to the migration of readers, mainstream publications under the Zimpapers brand, among others have taken an aggressive initiative to follow readers to online platforms while packaging media content in multimedia format.

The summit seeks to bridge the gaps and harness opportunities that have emerged following the changes in the media industry.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the Zimbabwean media had a responsibility to contribute to the development of the country through responsible reporting and upholding ethics.

“Government expects our media to be professional and accountable to the citizens of Zimbabwe. At the end of the day, they must appreciate that they are Zimbabweans first and they have a responsibility to contribute to the development of their country.

“They cannot be bystanders as if they don’t belong to the country. I always say with our pen and paper what we say should build Zimbabwe,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

She said whatever the media published should promote brand Zimbabwe.

Minister Mutsvangwa said Government came up with stringent policies against the spread of fake news and believes the measures will provide good ground for credible journalism to thrive.

“So, whatever we write about let it be factual, let it build Zimbabwe, let it bring the people of Zimbabwe together because we are one. If we have challenges, we need to say okay this is where we are. It’s like when you are in a hole, you can’t continue digging, we need to come together and say how do we come out of this problem,” she said.

Minister Mutsvangwa urged journalists to be truthful, informative and analytical to avoid sensationalism.

She said Government embraces and values the role of the media in society hence the Second Republic initiated the post Cabinet media briefings so that citizens can have insights of decisions taken by Government.

“Further to the weekly post Cabinet briefings, there is no discrimination as to who is invited. We invite State Media, we invite private media. We invite freelance journalists and we invite online content creators. We invite foreign media bureau chiefs as well. These are our efforts to depolarise the media industry and which is part of the media reform agenda,” she said.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the licensing of six commercial television stations, 14 community radio stations and eight campus radio stations is meant to create diversity and plurality in the communication field.

She said Government also repealed repressive media laws as part of its commitment to improve the media operating environment.

“All this was achieved in a space of three years. The media landscape in Zimbabwe has surely been transformed for better with both plurality of channels and a diversity of players. Zimbabwe boasts of a vibrant print media sector, where a number of newspapers and magazines are registered to operate while the internet penetration rate continues to grow at a steady pace,” she said.

Minister Mutsvangwa said Government is implementing the digital migration programme although it has been stalled by funding challenges.

She said there is a need for investment in the country’s media for it to be more robust and effective.

“I appeal to our partners to lend support to our endeavours to build a robust communication industry to ensure universal access to information, employment creation and professionalism. Bridging the urban and rural information divide and ensuring that all citizens have access to information, remains uppermost in our hierarchy of projects to be implemented by Government going forward,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

She said the country’s media sector is facing a myriad of challenges such as the safety of journalists, political polarisation, partisan journalism, publishing falsehoods and decline in training standards, gender discrimination and reports of rampant corruption in the sector.

Minister Mutsvangwa said Government cannot address these challenges alone and as such there is a need for concerted efforts by all stakeholders.

Addressing participants, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung country director Mrs Anna Hoffmann-Kwanga said the summit is key in finding solutions to challenges in the media industry.

“We are very happy to have this two-day engagement of the media fraternity and relevant stakeholders such as Government to share the needs that are arising from the changing environment that the media is finding itself in,” said Mrs Hoffmann-Kwanga.

She said there are a number of challenges facing the media which range from lack of traditional financing to having more actors joining the media and information spaces, sometimes from journalistic perspectives and sometimes on individual basis.

Mrs Hoffmann-Kwanga said the media play a critical role in creating an informed citizen which is key in a democracy.

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