‘Reforming public media is the real test for ED’

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

The real test of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration on media reforms will be reforming the public media especially the transformation of the state broadcaster Zimbabawe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) from being a government and ruling party propaganda tool, says top media personality.

Speaking at a media stakeholders conference organised by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe(MAZ) in the capital recently, Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe executive director Loughty Dube argued that the Zanu-PF led government’s rhetoric on reforms will only be validated if it manages to transform ZBC and other public media from currently glaring biased reportage.

“What I think will be the real test on whether the new administration is reformist will be through transforming ZBC and other public media from being entrenched in biased reporting as currently being obtained,” said the VMCZ boss.

This was reiterated by AMH journalist Nqaba Matshazi who dismissed the prevailing notion that the media is polarised and argued that it is giving the state media the leeway to continue its wanton biased reporting.

“Most of the times I have heard people citing that there is media polarisation but I  refute that because it gives the state media the leeway to persist with biased reporting.

“The state media should just play its role and not pursue partisan reporting,” argued Matshazi

The permanent secretary in the ministry of information, publicity and broadcasting services Nick Mangwana who frequently sends public messages as a Zanu(PF) sympathiser is adamant that the government is genuine in transforming the media sector and pleaded with media stakeholders to be patient.

“I think honestly, my ministry is making strenuous efforts to ensure reforms in the media are implemented but its a process and  I think you (stakeholders) should be patient.We have been engaging with you time and again and this surely should be applauded,” pleaded Mangwana.

He went on to assure that community radio stations would be given radio licenses soon but was taken to task by delegates on what policy framework the government would use since the Broadcasting Service Act which they intend to use is now archaic and needs to be amended.He was also evasive about giving proper timelines.

Keynote speaker,chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information,Publicity and Broadcasting Services Prince Dubeko Sibanda raised concern about how the legislature was often kept in the dark about policy prouncements by the Ministry of Information Media and Broadcasting Services.

The whole-day deliberations at the MAZ media stakeholders conference also addressed the security of journalists during their course of work and the scourge of sexual harassment in newsrooms. Veteran journalist Ropafadzo Mapimhidze had harrowing testimonies confirming that sexual harassment in newsrooms is real. However, Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said while sexual harassment is a criminal offense most women were not reporting such cases owing to various reasons that include fear of being ridiculed and labelled among many other factors.

Zimbabwe Media Commission executive director Dr Tafataona Mahoso spoke about media sustainability particularly how the current fund is too insignificant to support media houses in despair save for newspaper subscriptions and prizes for media excellence to media institutions.

The conference was attended by media stakeholders from public and private entities,members of Parliament and funding organisations.