By Nkosana Dlamini
ZIMBABWE National Editors Forum (Zinef) chair Dumisani Muleya (pictured) has rebuked some local journalists he says have rendered themselves professionally dysfunctional through taking bribes by politicians.
Muleya, who is also Zimbabwe Independent editor, was addressing editors at a Zinef workshop in Kadoma weekend.
The workshop was in line with Zinef’s attempts to equip gatekeepers with the necessary legal tools to cover the 2018 elections ushered in by a Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process.
Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped media has fallen to alleged capture by politicians and business, something feared could further erode what remains of the little integrity left of the once trusted profession.
Likewise, Zanu PF’s internal squabbles have come as a financial boon for the country’s media with some top publications reportedly linked to different factional interests.
But in candid comments to dozens of mainstream editors from both public and private media, Muleya said Zimbabwean journalists must refrain from offering themselves to “capture beyond capacity to function”.
“People are not willing to tell the truth about what is happening in this country because of fear and attempts to cosy up to the new administration and so on,” Muleya said.
“We can see it when we read stories that this is designed to please the new masters so they say ‘these are good guys, those are bad guys’. We can see that.
“So you must try as much as possible just to be journalists. You know when you are professional in what you write, nobody will give you problems but you have far more problems when you become partisan.
“Your job is more difficult when you take sides. It’s easier when you are more professional and more neutral. I really encourage you to try that one.”
According to a Zimbabwe Media Commission assessment on local media reportage around the 2013 elections, Zimbabwe’s polarised media was so biased towards the ruling Zanu PF party and the opposition MDC-T to a point of turning themselves into “commissars” of the rival parties.
But the narrative has since shifted with publications narrowing their bias to a money spinning clique of politicians who have strayed into a media turf with the tacit approval by professionals.
“Being embedded it’s the worst. It does not take you any far,” Muleya told his peers on Saturday.
“Sooner rather than latter, you find yourself changing positions and shifting. Yesterday you were saying this, today you are saying that because you are not guided by principle.
“You are guided by cosying up to guys who come and go. Politicians would always come and go but if you stay with the basics of journalism, you will not be found contradicting yourself. Today you are saying the next thing.”