‘Scribes urged to unite in the wake of arrest threats’

JOURNALISTS should unite in the wake of threats of arrests of more media practitioners, with government reportedly angling to create a case around the lack of ethical practices to justify a fresh crackdown.

BY MOSES MATENGA

Speaking at a Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe Quill Speak discussion in Harare on Wednesday, stakeholders said there was a plot to portray journalists as unethical and justify repressive interventions.

Lawyer Chris Mhike said scribes should put in place mechanisms to ensure ethics were adhered to and avoid politicians or corporates deciding for them on what was ethical or not.

“There is need for all players to unite and work on issues of ethics, government included, but ultimately, journalists should be in the forefront of upholding standards,” he said.

The Zimbabwe Independent Editor, Dumisani Muleya said people with their own agendas were making sweeping statements that journalists were unethical and corrupt.

He said conclusions should not be made on the basis of bar talk.

“A narrative of ethical collapse is identified, with some characters pushing it for reasons we don’t understand and know. There are challenges on ethical issues, but they are not new, we have had them. Those people who say in the past this and that, we dismiss them because they are not useful to us,” Muleya said.

“Those who think things have changed because they and their friends are not there, should not be taken seriously. There is no general ethical collapse, that is wrong and we still maintain that.”

He said there was a plot to intensify the arrest of journalists and urged media practitioners to stick to facts to avoid “tyrants attacking the media”.

Harare polytechnic journalism lecturer, Wellington Gadzikwa said: “We should ask who is saying ethics have gone down. It’s people, who think the media should be doing public relations for them.”

Standard Editor, Kholwani Nyathi said ethical practices in the media had improved with the coming of the VMCZ, which has made media players more accountable.

“In the past few months, there has been a worrying trend, with some sections of the media bringing a narrative of agenda setters. A week won’t go by without a critical analysis in some media circles accusing the media of being unethical,” he said.

“In the last two weeks, something happened that allowed people to sober up. Where we were going, the agenda was journalists were failing on ethics and government would have to intervene. We were in danger of going to the 2008 levels, where polarisation was prevalent, but the arrests of public media journalists (The Sunday Mail Editor Mabasa Sasa, Investigative Editor Brian Chitemba and reporter Tinashe Farawo) showed us we are all vulnerable and we should unite and not allow authorities to set an agenda for us.”

VMCZ executive director, Loughty Dube said: “There were generalised assumptions that the media is unethical. Newspapers are very ethical, you can’t say out of 200 stories in all newspapers, 10 stories are questionable then conclude, therefore, that newspapers are unethical.

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