Predicament of doing right

MARONDERA - Events at ZBC have become a better soap opera than most of the programmes the station currently airs.

In the latest instalment both the Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo and the employees have been making strong statements but neither position is generating much sympathy.

Speaking in Bulawayo recently, Moyo told ZBC workers things that the majority of Zimbabweans have been saying for the last decade.

“ZBC is producing content nobody is watching.”

This is a fact which is glaringly obvious in view of the multitude of satellite dishes adorning roofs in cities, towns and even atop thatched huts in rural villages.

“The government cannot reward you for not discharging your mandate. Do you still have public interest?” Moyo asked, responding to ZBC employees’ call for salary increases.

Just weeks after expressing their delight at the minister’s intervention in their plight that led to the unearthing of the scandal of  huge salaries management were taking home, the workers have changed their minds about Moyo.

After the minister turned down ZBC workers’ call for higher wages, an anonymous employee said: “Surely, labour laws in Zimbabwe should protect us from the Prof. First he cut our salaries by half and now he is saying this, what is our crime?”

Another employee said members of their workers’ committee were afraid to go to the Labour Courts in case they lost their jobs altogether.

That is the crux of the matter: ZBC have been dissemination one party’s political propaganda for years while ordinary people have been suffering unimaginable horrors.

When half a million people were losing their jobs and homes during farm seizures, ZBC showed none of it.

When thousands were on the run from political violence during five sets of elections since the new millennium, ZBC showed none of it.

When over a million people were left homeless and destitute after Operation Murambatsvina, ZBC showed almost none of it.

Explaining their silence over the blatantly biased programming, one ZBC employee said:  ‘‘We have since stopped criticising our content because you can be labelled as an opposition sympathiser and end up losing your job.’’

ZBC employees are not the first to face this kind of predicament of making a decision between doing the right thing and losing your job. 

On November 4, 2004, one television worker not only made international headlines but also inspired hundreds of others to also do the right thing.

Nataliya Dmytruk was the sign language interpreter on Ukraine’s UTI news broadcasts and instead of translating into sign language the official script that was being read on the news bulletin, Dmytruk signed: ‘‘I am addressing everybody who is deaf in Ukraine. Our president is Victor Yushchenko. Do not trust the results of the central election committee. They are all lies.... And I am very ashamed to translate such lies to you.’’

Dmytruk’s sign language statement started a rebellion. Hundreds of employees at the TV station were inspired by her and made a broad stand for the truth.

‘‘No more lies,’’ they chanted in unison to station owners  and then other reporters also announced on air their intentions to report fairly.

Shortly afterwards Channel UTI changed and adopted a more balanced reporting style. 

Asked later about her action, Dmytruk said: ‘‘I just went in and did what my conscience told me to do.’’

Something seemingly impossible had been so simple.

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