Return to the dark days

HARARE - The state-controlled Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) this week received its teeth to begin its work of butchering, devouring  and turning back the clock on media freedoms in Zimbabwe.

The ZMC, which had been wrongly commended for licensing newspapers in the past two years, had hitherto not constituted its media council as per the requirement of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).

I say the ZMC was wrongly commended for licensing newspapers simply because that is an unnecessary exercise in a democracy.

Why register newspapers and journalists, and for what purpose other than to control them. What of non-journalists who want to publish and write, are they banned  because they are not journalists or media owners?

The stupidity of the Zanu PF dictatorship is exposed. The existence of the ZMC is an anomaly in a democratic state and critically this exposes the lack of confidence and legitimacy by Zanu PF.

The ZMC is a poodle of the ministry of Media Information and Publicity which in itself is under the President’s Office and used as a propaganda arm of Zanu PF.

The ZMC is a puppet of a larger scheme in which the Information ministry seeks to control the media, both the state and independent media for political ends. The ZMC is a puppet in a larger game in which what we are meant  to receive as news is filtered through larger frameworks set up by Zanu PF actors and enforced by the ZMC’s  Media Council.

The launch of the ZMC’s Media Council, as the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum says, is a return to the dark days of repression in which, the ZMC, police, CIO and the ministry  of Information can walk into newsrooms, arrest journalists, detain and ban journalists with impunity.

Many will ask but should journalists not be policed like engineers, lawyers and doctors. And the answer is simple, journalism is linked to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Unlike lawyers, doctors and engineers who deal with weighty matters of life and death, journalists write and report stories.

And in writing and reporting stories some facts might be missed and some sources might even provide wrong information. Should a journalist be arrested for that?

The answer is no.

No also on the basis that if the state, ZMC, police, CIO start arresting journalists and banning them, what happens to us ordinary citizens, whose voices are represented  by the same journalists.

Unlike the professions mentioned above, journalism or writing in newspapers or speaking on radio or TV is not only confined to journalists, but is a human right.

Is the ZMC going to license those who write letters to the editor, those who write opinions like myself, who is going to be banned by this idiotic body called the ZMC?.

Journalists are a profession anchored on freedom of expression and everyone should be allowed to speak out their mind.

And if anyone is offended they are free to go to the courts and better still to the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe where services are free and not to Tafataona Mahoso and Godfrey Majonga and their ZMC.

The ZMC’s media council is not only an attack on the media but an attack on citizens of Zimbabwe.

The media council must be condemned because we also know who it is being set up for.

As Aippa  was crafted for the independent media, the council is coming to target the same independent media and journalists. Despite lying and writing fiction, we have not seen the ZMC raising a finger against the state-owned and controlled media, because the ZMC, the state-owned media and the ministry of Information are on the same side.

Let there be no doubt that Zanu PF is preparing an assault on the independent media. And the mere existence of such bodies as the ZMC and its council induces self-censorship, fear and trepidation.

These bodies serve no developmental purpose but are a reflection of a political system caught in time and managed by inorganic academics that belong to the Stone Age.

The ZMC media council is coming at a time when Zimbabwe is preparing for a constitutional referendum and elections. - David Mutomba

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