MISA-Zimbabwe, in a statement released Monday notes with concern the continued attempts by the ZANU PF to entrench polarization in the Zimbabwean media following coverage of infighting within the party.
Both the private and public media have in the past weeks reported ZANU PF’s intra-party fighting related to the coming party’s elective congress in December.
In their coverage the media has quoted both named and unnamed sources from the politburo, who earlier warned by President Mugabe against leaking information from the closed meetings to the media, especially the private newspapers, which he described as “opposition papers”.
While MISA-Zimbabwe acknowledges ZANU PF’s right to embargoe some information relating to its internal business, it strongly condemns attempts to demonise the media outlets that report on the party issues and seeming criminalisation of those party members that exercise their right to propagate their views on succession.
MISA-Zimbabwe views attempts to attach political identities on the private media as unjustifiable and potentially dangerous to the news outlets, who for long have been subjected to both legal and extra-legal obstacles spurred on by inciting and reckless political pronouncements by public figures.
It is a matter of public record that the private media have been bombed, had their products torched and banned from circulating in some parts of the country by suspected ZANU PF loyalists, simply because they were labelled as opposition mouthpieces. The continued characterization of the private media as extensions of the opposition and not as key sources of information that fill the information gap poses the risk of reigniting the intolerable media freedom violations of the past. Further, such statements are antithetical to efforts being made to try and bridge the media divide and de-polarise the coverage of the Zimbabwean story. The Information and Media Panel of Inquiry process is one such example.
More importantly, it is MISA-Zimbabwe’s considered view that any pronouncements and efforts to criminalize the work of the media – operating legally in the country – and their sources is in conflict with the new constitution, which guarantees citizens’ right to propagate their views, media freedom and access to information. Those that feel aggrieved by the media’s content should approach the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe for amicable resolution of the matter. Threats will only serve to entrench Zimbabwe’s position in a community of countries that frown upon media diversity and plurality of views.