We must raise our stan­dard of jour­nal­ism — Mang­wana

The me­dia as the Fourth Es­tate is one of the crit­i­cal pil­lars of gov­er­nance needed in strength­en­ing democ­racy, good gov­er­nance and hu­man de­vel­op­ment. The power and sig­nif­i­cance of the me­dia in a democ­racy can never be un­der­es­ti­mated. But like what Lord Be

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Cartoon, Q & A, Opinion -

LRM: There is a gen­eral per­cep­tion that the coun­try’s me­dia land­scape is po­larised and con­stricted in terms of growth and is un­able to ab­sorb the mul­ti­tudes of grad­u­ates com­ing from in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing. What is your gen­eral as­sess­ment of the coun­try’s me­dia land­scape and what do you think can be done to stir growth and re­duce the po­lar­i­sa­tion? NM: I think there are po­lar­i­sa­tion is­sues which be­devil our me­dia land­scape pit­ting the anti-es­tab­lish­ment me­dia against the pro-Govern­ment me­dia. This, of course, has low­ered the stan­dard of the out­put. Even the EU ob­servers who I had a meet­ing with to­day (yes­ter­day) said they could not re­late to what they were read­ing in pa­pers across that po­lar di­vide and what they had said in their Press state­ment and their re­port. They ba­si­cally said none of the po­si­tions in the me­dia rep­re­sented their po­si­tion. They did not speak highly of the qual­ity of our jour­nal­ism. I be­lieve rais­ing the stan­dard of jour­nal­ism, re­sourc­ing and sup­port­ing the in­sti­tu­tions charged with deal­ing with is­sues of ethics and fair­ness in the pro­fes­sion such as ZMC (Zim­babwe Me­dia Com­mis­sion), would help raise the stan­dard of jour­nal­ism in this coun­try. There is prob­a­bly a need to re­view train­ing cur­ric­ula and con­tin­u­ing pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment of those in prac­tice so that they main­tain the stan­dards they learn in class. Then, there is the is­sue of de­vel­op­ing the me­dia in­dus­try it­self to be a ma­jor com­mer­cial sec­tor so as to ab­sorb artists, jour­nal­ists, grad­u­ates and con­tent pro­duc­ers into em­ploy­ment. The min­istry is charged with that re­spon­si­bil­ity and it is its in­ten­tion to de­velop it. LRM: An­tic­i­pa­tion is rife that the me­dia land­scape is go­ing to be broad­ened as more news­pa­pers, ra­dio and tele­vi­sion sta­tions are likely to be given op­er­at­ing li­cences in line with the Govern­ment’s thrust of deep­en­ing democ­racy and en­hanc­ing trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity. What role do you think the Govern­ment can play in cre­at­ing an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for the me­dia to thrive? NM: The Govern­ment’s role is li­cens­ing more play­ers through BAZ (Broad­cast­ing Author­ity of Zim­babwe), as well as de­vel­op­ing the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture such as trans­mit­ters that cover the length and breadth of the coun­try. It also has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to spear­head the Me­dia Re­form Agenda by align­ing (the) BSA (Broad­cast­ing Ser­vices Act) and AIPPA (Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion and Pro­tec­tion of Pri­vacy Act) to the Con­sti­tu­tion. On this mat­ter, the Pres­i­dent has al­ready pro­nounced him­self and the min­istry will spear­head the nec­es­sary re­forms LRM: You have in the past ex­pressed reser­va­tions about the coun­try’s na­tional broad­caster — ZBC’s op­er­a­tions. With your ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing worked abroad and hav­ing been a reg­u­lar com­men­ta­tor on var­i­ous tele­vi­sion sta­tions and ra­dio sta­tions, what do you think is gen­er­ally lack­ing at the na­tional broad­caster and what can be done to re­vamp its op­er­a­tions and make it com­pet­i­tive? NM: I think what is lack­ing is train­ing and op­por­tu­ni­ties to bench­mark our prac­tice and prod­uct with other in­ter­na­tional broad­cast­ers and stan­dards. The ZBC has to mon­i­tor its own view­er­ship and lis­ten to its cus­tomers. They should ask them­selves why Zim­bab­wean view­ers trust news about Zim­babwe re­ported by their South African coun­ter­parts or other sta­tions from else­where out­side Zim­babwe. They should fight to take back the cus­tomers and it’s a chal­lenge we are putting to them to show that they are grow­ing both their view­er­ship and ra­dio au­di­ence from pe­riod to pe­riod. We ex­pect a qual­ity im­prove­ment pro­gramme from them and how they can achieve that in­ter­na­tional stan­dard that would make ev­ery Zim­bab­wean in Zim­babwe and in the Di­as­pora say, “I saw this thing on ZBC, so it must be true”. Zim­bab­weans must be proud of their na­tional broad­caster. But that pride has to be be­cause the con­tent is good and the qual­ity is

not em­bar­rass­ing. LRM: Me­dia prac­ti­tion­ers have long ad­vo­cated for a self-reg­u­la­tory body to deal with eth­i­cal is­sues, code of con­duct for jour­nal­ists and com­mon stan­dard prac­tices. Briefly out­line the min­istry’s vi­sion re­gard­ing the reg­u­la­tory frame­work of the me­dia in Zim­babwe? NM: The min­istry’s vi­sion is to make the whole Sec­tion 248 of the Con­sti­tu­tion come to life. The ZMC is charged with some of the things you are ask­ing. If it’s re­sourced and em­pow­ered to per­form its con­sti­tu­tional func­tion and some still feel there is a need for an­other way of manag­ing things dif­fer­ently, then, in our daily con­ver­sa­tions with the me­dia stake­hold­ers, we will lis­ten to their ideas and sug­ges­tions and sup­port prac­ti­tion­ers in what­ever they sug­gest, which is not con­trary to the na­tional in­ter­est. LRM: Digi­ti­sa­tion has been on the min­istry’s radar for a long time. Can you briefly ex­plain what has so far stalled full im­ple­men­ta­tion of Dig­i­tal Ter­res­trial Tele­vi­sion project? NM: The pri­mary chal­lenge is limited for­eign cur­rency re­serves in the coun­try. From trans­mit­ters to set top boxes all de­mand forex. So, that has been the chal­lenge but there are plans to find cre­ative ways to over­come such chal­lenges. LRM: Four years ago, the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion, Pub­lic­ity and Broad­cast­ing Ser­vices set up the In­for­ma­tion and Me­dia Panel of In­quiry (IMPI) to as­sess the op­er­a­tions of Zim­babwe’s me­dia in­dus­try. When is the Min­istry go­ing to con­sider IMPI’s rec­om­men­da­tions to de­velop a me­dia pol­icy for the in­dus­try? NM: We have been handed the IMPI re­port, which is a very vo­lu­mi­nous doc­u­ment. We will look at it and use it as the base on which we will de­velop a me­dia pol­icy. LRM: Are we likely to see a re­con­fig­u­ra­tion of en­ti­ties within the min­istry’s purview to en­sure that they con­form to the dic­tates of the Govern­ment’s Vi­sion 2030 of be­com­ing a mid­dle in­come econ­omy? NM: We are study­ing what we have and whether their struc­ture fits with the broad na­tional agenda of be­com­ing an up­per mid­dle in­come coun­try by 2030. There are de­ci­sions which have al­ready been made such as merg­ing the Broad­cast­ing Author­ity of Zim­babwe (BAZ) and Postal and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity of Zim­babwe (PORTRAZ) and the Govern­ment is al­ready work­ing on re­al­is­ing that.

Mr Mang­wana

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