Independent press biggest threat to misrule, deserves credit

In a state like ours, where the government hides its undemocratic tendencies behind the smokescreen of the Official Secrets Act and conceals important information from the public under the cloak of AIPPA, where corruption is rampant and bad governance is the order of the day, the independent press is by far the biggest threat to the misrule that we have witnessed in this country for the last couple of decades because it is the biggest source of information for the general populace and the most effective shaper of public opinion.

Zivai Mhetu - Zinasu National Spokesperson

Zivai Mhetu – Zinasu National Spokesperson

Though the existence of laws like POSA and the Official Secrets Act have made it a nightmare for members of the press to get information which has in turn affected the public and students who require such information for academic purposes, the independent press has still managed to play a critical role in dissemination of credible information.

 
As the world commemorates International Press Freedom Day this week, it is important to note how the limited press freedom we enjoy in this country has been absolutely vital and extremely crucial in exposing and publicizing a lot of egregious acts by the government such as human rights abuses and corruption which could have gone unnoticed or could have been swept under the rug were it not for independent press’ vigilance and commitment to revealing the truth.
 
In this country, where journalists and editors have been arrested numerous times, where until February 2016 the law criminalized the journalistic profession by making it possible for journalists to be arrested for defaming people in the course of their work, it would reflect a great deal of ungratefulness if we continued to pile praises on opposition leaders and prominent activists engaged in the fight for democracy while failing to salute members of the independent press without whom we would know little about those very same opposition leaders and activists some of us celebrate.
 
At great risk to their lives, day in and day out, members of the independent press in Zimbabwe report on issues that a lot of citizens are afraid to even speak about in public because of the culture of fear that has been created in the country.
 
According to George Orwell, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” In Zimbabwe, only the independent press practises journalism as defined by Orwell.
 
The fact that the state has threatened to clamp down on the independent press time and time again – though regrettable in as far as freedom of the press is concerned – is a huge sign that members of the independent press are doing their job right much unlike their state media counterparts who are clearly not journalists but public relations officials whose single objective is to please the status quo by writing stories that flatter officials in the ruling elite in a bid to present them in a good light to the public.
 
It appears that the only time the state media practices something that has a semblance of real journalism is when it is being used in factional fights to expose corrupt officials as was the case during the salarygate exposé. 
 
Suffice it to say that considering the very limited democratic space that we have in our country, the independent press has done exceptionally well. While we are yet to achieve total press freedom and are still engaged in the process of clamouring for it, it is comforting to know that from now until the time we achieve it, errant state officials will not make bad decisions on our behalf or engage in corrupt activities without the public knowing about it.
 
If it means journalists and editors will be arrested in the process of telling the truth without fear or favour this is exactly what will happen because members of the independent press have shown us that they are not afraid to do their job in this harsh and undemocratic environment where being a member of the independent press poses more risk to one’s life than being deployed in a warzone.

Indeed the independent press, not the opposition which would not have the prominence it enjoys today were it not for the independent media, is the biggest threat to misrule in this country. It deserves credit for the role that it has played.    
 
Zivai Mhetu

Zinasu National Spokesperso

Post published in: Featured

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