We cannot let formal media die — Min Mutsvangwa Minister Mutsvangwa (second from right) joins other panel members at the Global Media Congress in Abu Dhabi yesterday

Herald Reporter
THE rapid development in Information Communication Technology, which has fuelled the rise of citizen journalists and therefore mass distribution of unverified news (fake news), was the subject of the first session of a well-attended Global Media Congress in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

The Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa, declared in the session she shared with her counterpart from Bahrain, Mr Ramzan bin Abdulla Al Nuaimi, and the Permanent Secretary for Information of India, Mr Shri Apurva Chandra: “We cannot let formal media die.”

The Minister outlined measures that the Second Republic has come up with to save the traditional media.

“We are at that stage where disruptive technologies are threatening the survival of the mainstream media and that demands major adjustments of the media business models to survive the changing operating environment. We have, however, witnessed growth of the media in my country, Zimbabwe, on the back of legal and regulatory reforms that the Government instituted following wide consultations with stakeholders,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.

Through opening up the media space to diverse players, the Second Republic has drastically altered the media landscape in Zimbabwe—therefore countering unverified sources of news that are usually outside the remit of regulation.

“The reforms have enhanced access to information, provided a platform for freedom of the Press and freedom of expression. We have repealed media laws that inhibited the media from executing its duties freely and scared away investors into the sector. We have further issued out licenses for the establishment of community radio stations to 14 players and of these five are already operational. Furthermore, we have licenced eight campus/university radio stations and of these six have gone live on air. Of the six licensed private commercial TV channels, three are operational”, said Minister Mutsvangwa.

The Global Media Congress, which runs until tomorrow, has seen media experts, proprietors and practitioners converging in Abu Dhabi to come up with solutions to save the industry that is under threat in the fourth revolution.

To survive, Minister Mutsvangwa said, the media should appreciate that “the future is now” and “embrace digital technological innovations in response to consumption patterns that have seen the appetite for information on the go just by a click of the button increasing”.

“This means media houses need to adapt or die and there is no better place than this Global Media Summit for media owners and professionals in my delegation to ‘learn, unlearn and relearn” through engagement, exchange of ideas, partnerships and joint ventures with those that are better experienced and more knowledgeable in the media.”

Both the Bahrain Minister of Information, Mr Ramzan bin Abdulla Al Nuaimi and the senior Indian civil servant, shared Minister Mutsvangwa’s determination that there is a need to protect formal media.

In an interview after the panel discussion, Minister Mutsvangwa said: “It is fine that social media is developing at the pace it is, but it should never replace formal media which is structured and its news is verifiable.”

“We know that the advent of social media is killing the traditional media. Social media journalists are citizens, they are writing from everywhere, but traditional media journalists are accredited, they are registered and accountable. When traditional journalists write something you know where to go, if it’s a media house you can go and complain but on social media you don’t know whether that person is in the country, outside or whether he or she is an enemy.”

She added: “So we are actually saying we need to make sure that we enhance ICT so that we reach everyone, especially as the Ministry of Information, it is important to continuously put the good narrative as media institutions.

“We need to make sure that we encourage our journalists to report factually, to report on things which bring communities and families together, things which develop our country because we want stability for economic development.”

More than 1 200 media gurus have come together in Abu Dhabi drawn from 29 countries, and Minister Mutsvangwa said this platform offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to learn from other countries.

At the congress, Zimbabwe and India demonstrated the difference in the problems ICT-developed and developing countries have.

India secretary for information and Broadcasting Mr Shri Apurva Chandra said their “problem” was that data was “too cheap” and the 600 million smartphones in the hands of mostly young people exchanging unregulated information caused a different kind of problem.

He and Minister Mutsvangwa agreed that technological developments could not be delayed due to legislative developments.

“Self-regulatory mechanisms have to be put in place so that Governments do not have to police social media as it evolves,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

She also spoke about “the opening of investment space in Zimbabwe” and outlined President Mnangagwa’s investment-friendly policies, stating that the extractive sector, agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure “and even oil and gas exploration” areas were all available to foreign investors.

Minister Mutsvangwa is leading a delegation of public and private media at the conference.

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