Daily News marks 2nd anniversary

HARARE - For the second year running, the country’s most popular daily paper the Daily News, celebrates its anniversary in style.

Yesterday, the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) stable — publishers of the Daily News and its sister publication the Daily News on Sunday hosted dynamic discussion titled Media, Democracy and Elections.

The discussion sought to set a national discourse and the agenda for a free press not only during election periods but also play its critical watchdog and advisory role to citizens on a daily basis.

One of the participants, Takura Zhangazha said a free media landscape can play a critical role in democratic and electoral processes.

The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe executive director said one of the major reasons why successive elections since the turn of the century have been blighted by disputes is the lack of media freedom.

“In fast forwarding to our contemporary political context, elections have however not been seen or referred to popularly as resulting in us having ‘government of the people, for the people and by the people’.

The disputed and controversial elections that have occurred since 2000 in Zimbabwe have not necessarily reflected the unfettered will of the citizens of our country,” he said.

“And the reasons for this are many and well-documented in various electoral reports by observers and election-related organisations.

However, it must be emphasised that one of the key reasons has been the deliberate stifling of the media, access to information and broader freedom of expression by the State,” Zhangazha said.

“The culture and practice of impunity and criminalisation of the media and freedom of expression by the Zimbabwean state has contributed significantly to how elections have not necessarily reflected the democratic will of the people. This is a point however, that is made not in order to assume that the media must only have freedom to operate during elections in order to accentuate access to information of the citizenry around electoral processes,” he said.

Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya said the press needs not have a “loving relationship” with governments.

“The media should not be in love with government and corporate power.

Good journalism should not celebrate violence. Rather, it should provide analysis, provide a public forum for national discourse and mobilise people around issues that benefit society,” said Ruhanya.

He cited the example of the Daily News’ indigenisation policy exposé now popularly referred to as the Nieebgate Scandal as a case in point.

President Robert Mugabe has also acknowledged that there are anomalies in the implementation of the contentious indigenisation policy touted by his Zanu PF party as a landmark and meant to benefit ordinary citizens.

“That is an example of good investigative reporting that benefits society. In the end, people will be able to make informed decisions about policy makers.

“The media is now referred to as the eyes and ears of the voiceless in democratic societies but we should also be cognisant of the fact that it can be abused as seen in the Rwandan Genocide. If handled well press freedom then becomes the cornerstone of liberal democracy,” he said.

Since the turn of the century, Zimbabwe has gone through numerous electoral process most of which have been disputed. The government has also come under fire for enacting inhibiting laws that have criminalised the practice of journalism.

Laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), the Public Order and Security Act and the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act have been used to stifle media freedom and forcibly shut down media houses seen as critical of the establishment.

The Daily News is celebrating two years since it was re-granted its operating licence. The popular publication was closed by the government in 2003 under Aippa. - Gugulethu Nyazema and Richard Chidza

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