By Nyembezi Khumalo
Bulawayo, August 28, 2013-Media organisations – both private and public – are compelled to pay journalists respectable salaries to ensure the highest acceptable professional journalism standards are maintained, media union organisations have said.
The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) secretary general, Foster Dongozi and Njabulo Ncube the chairperson of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) told Radio VOP that poverty wages are driving journalists to be unethical.
Ncube and Dongozi were responding to the outcome of a study commissioned by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) showing journalism standards as having rapidly gone down, mainly due to corrupt tendencies by journalists.
“The issue of corruption in the media sector hinges on the failure to adhere to the cardinal rules of journalism. The paltry salaries that employers reportedly pay journalists have also tendered to drive journalists to accept bribes, some as little as a $1. Our corrupt political system has also had an adverse effect in the profession where politicians from both political divide demand coverage in return for cash,” Ncube said.
Dongozi added: “At the International Federation of Journalists, we said no quality and professional journalism can thrive in an environment of poverty and fear. Is there poverty? Yes.
“Employers have beep stubborn in terms of refusing to form a National Employment Council (NEC) that will come up with standard salaries for journalists and that is why journalists end up soliciting for bribes to make ends meet.”
Dongozi indicated that the ZUJ secretariat has agreed to approach the newly appointed Labour Minister to gazette standard salary rates for journalists to ensure employers stop paying poverty wages.
“The national council of ZUJ has mandated the secretariat to approach the new Minister of Labour to gazette salaries that we feel journalists need to be paid,” Dongozi added.
A VMCZ study showing journalism standards going down was conducted by Dr Wallace Chuma, a Senior lecturer at the Centre for Film and Media Studies at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
The study conducted between 24 June and 13 July this year.
Chuma said his primary methodology in conducting the study involved in-depth interviews with Zimbabwean journalists and civic actors working closely with journalists as Media Institution of Southern Africa (MISA), Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) and others