‘Zim scribes among most frightened’

January 28, 2013 at 6:34 pm Leave a comment

By Jeffrey Muvundusi, 
BULAWAYO – Former journalism lecturer at the National University of Science
and Technology (Nust) and Fort Hare University head of department,
Bhekimpilo Sibanda, has described Zimbabwean journalists as the most
educated but a frightened lot who squirm from freely executing their duties.

He said it was this fright that leads to self-censorship therefore denying
the nation the real situation on the ground.

Speaking during the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe organised press
conference at the Bulawayo Press Club, Sibanda said as the nation heads
towards elections this year journalists need to stamp their authority as
they have the capability to build or destroy the nation.

“Zimbabwean journalists are amongst the most educated I have seen, I have
met, but they are also amongst the most frightened in the world,” said
Sibanda.

“Most of the problems that arise from the mistakes we make in the media are
through fright and self-censorship. Even before you go to your own editor
you have removed the meat out of your story,” Sibanda added.

Harassment and intimidation of journalists particularly those in the private
media have become common in Zimbabwe especially before and during the
general elections.

On the turn of the millennium most journalists were tortured or maimed by
Robert Mugabe’s government, a move that also led to some being forced into
self- exile.

As if that was not enough, repressive draconian laws such as Public Order
and Security (Posa) and Access to Information Protection of Private Act
(Aippa) were enacted which further compounded the operation of media
practitioners.

Sibanda described local journalists as their own enemies when it comes to
effective dissemination of information to the people.

He said journalists really needed to be brave in order to ensure a peaceful
and democratic nation.

He said in South Africa it only took one brave journalist to unlock the
colonial repressive media laws.

“The South African media was worse than ours because for every sentence you
had to be cleared from Pretoria to read that. The point I am making is the
day Mandela and Winnie walked out of prison……..it took only a single
journalist who said Mandela is out to hell with this,” said Sibanda, also a
former lecturer at the University of Limpopo.

“We must from now know whom we are serving. A true journalist sides with the
people. You must be loyal to the truth and stop taking opinions and making
them into establishment,” he said.

Sibanda, who was one of the lecturers to successfully push for the
introduction of the Journalism Faculty at Nust, said elections by their
nature had the propensity to stir conflict regardless of the political
party.

As a result he urged journalists to always get their facts right through
observing the fundamental principles of reporting which include fairness and
balanced reporting.

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