Labelling Naija journos 'Boko Horam' unfortunate

HARARE - Journalists and media practitioners have said it is unfortunate that Information minister Jonathan Moyo likened Nigerian journalists who ambushed President Robert Mugabe during the recent inauguration of Muhammadu Buhari, the newly-installed leader of the West African country to “brothers and sisters of Boko Haram.”

They said Moyo’s outburst intimates that it borders on criminality for journalists to question Mugabe on his long and disputed tenure as president of Zimbabwe.

Nhlanhla Ngwenya, MISA-Zimbabwe director, said he understands well that Moyo is employed and paid to defend government and its head, but in so doing, he sometimes does not dwell on the import of issues raised by subjects of his comments but seeks to suffocate them with his now too common abrasive if not vituperative responses.

Journalists identified as reporters from Sahara News ambushed Mugabe and his African Union (AU) delegation demanding that he steps down from his position as Zimbabwe head of state.

The scribes hurled abuse at the 91-year-old leader who has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.

“It is not in doubt that Sahara TV journalists may have brought to the fore enduring questions on where to draw the line between journalism and activism, which issues are even relevant to Zimbabwe given the conflation of journalism with political activism prevalent in our media,” Ngwenya said.

“It is utterly improper to try and draw parallels between journalists who are seeking to get answers to very pertinent questions — however unpalatable their approach may have been to his handlers — and a terrorist group Boko Haram.

“It leaves a sour taste in the mouths of those that have suffered the ruthlessness of the terrorist group as well as the rest of Africa, whose leadership has publicly abhorred the conduct of the group.”

The Islamic militant group Boko Haram has over the years embarked on a reign of terror in Nigeria where it has killed thousands and displaced about two million people.

“Using terrorist epithets to describe journalists doing their work — even in a clumsy manner — is being irresponsible,” Ngwenya said.

“Imagine if those journalists were to visit Zimbabwe carrying such labels!”

Loughty Dube, Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe executive director, believes journalists have a right to freely ask questions they want, even if the questions might be deemed stupid by others.

“This is what freedom of expression is all about,” he said.

“We have a bad culture as Zimbabweans of hurling insults at those we do not agree with.”

Dube said Mugabe had a right to remain silent as he rightly did if he did not want to answer the questions.

“But for anyone to equate the Nigerian journalists as Boko Haram is quite unfortunate,” he said.

Journalist Njabulo Ncube said we should be disabused of the notion that the Sahara TV journalists were provocative in their line of questioning “when everyone who cares to know is aware that the interviewee called Nigerians crooks not long ago.”

“The ‘crooks’ in their crookedness fired pertinent questions which everyone inside and outside Zanu PF want answers like yesterday,” he said.

He said while everyone was aware Moyo is paid to defend the indefensible, referring to the concerned Nigerian journalists as Boko Haram journalists was going too far.

“It is asking for trouble and probably risks inviting a serious backlash from Boko Haram for this peace-loving southern African country and its citizens,” he said.

“We don’t want to be dragged into Nigeria’s violent internal strife except to add that his comments are ill-advised, unhelpful and this speaks volumes about our government’s disregard for freedom of expression and the right of journalist to question the Zanu PF leader about his succession plans.”

In short, Ncube said the minister is “intimating that it borders on criminality for journalists to question Mugabe on his long and disputed tenure in office.”

“This is scary stuff. It spells doom for local media fraternity at a time succession shenanigans in Zanu PF take turns and twists. Moyo has struck fear in the heart of the profession.”

Barnabas Thondhlana, Zimbabwe Editors Forum (Zinef) secretary general said journalists are not trained in diplomatic etiquette.

“They are trained to probe,” he said. “The best way to deal with menacing journos is to be humble, be polite and cooperate fully with them.

“If they ask you, please do reply. At least say something. Give them maximum attention when they are after you. If you are not sure what to say, request that questions be sent in writing.”

Thondhlana believes silence works in court but not with journalists.

“They interpret silence as an admission of guilt and cowardice,” he said. “Sometimes even slapping them in the face or breaking their camera can give an ‘interview’ a spectacular end, pleasing to the journo.The point is, silence does not help when a journalist is looking for a sound bite.”

Journalist Ray Mawerera said from a professional point of view, he was of the view that the Nigerians lost an opportunity to engage Mugabe properly, perhaps starting off by invoking his AU chairmanship as reference point.

“By now, people know that the president likes to banter with journalists,” he said.

“They could have found a better way of asking the same questions in a manner that would have got him to respond.

“Instead, yes, they did appear like some of those characters we see on movies, heckling, pushing and shoving in an excitable manner that I have rarely personally seen in real life journalism.

“That they were blatantly hostile from the outset ensured they did not get answers to their questions — so everyone lost out.

“But maybe their behaviour was the story they wanted and they ended up being the news that they wanted to report, active participants in the story they are writing! I repeat: a lost opportunity.”

A journalist who prefers to be called, Shaka, said while he likes robust questioning, there is a thin line between robust questioning and disrespect, provocation and contempt.

“My view is those journalists, particularly the female one, was on a mission to ridicule, demean and embarrass. Should journalists play that role? Is there no way of being candid without being provocative?

“If journalists adopt such risky questioning approaches, are they not sacrificing professionalism and consequently entering the realm of political activism?

“Should politicians be blamed if they treat such journalists as political foes? Moyo’s views should be viewed in that light.”

Yet another media correspondent who preferred to remain anonymous said questions demanding to know when Mugabe would step down were fair.

“But to raise an opinion that it is time you should go, during an attempt at getting an answer to answer, is wrong — but not illegal — as any person is free to express him or herself.

“There is a world of difference between activism and journalism. A fair and dignified degree of impartiality which is devoid of confrontation should always be maintained during a journalistic enquiry,” he said.

The media correspondent however said branding such journalists offshoots of Boko Haram was an unfortunate exaggeration, which is designed to humiliate and score political points.

“Whether the journalists were sent or not, they made their views known,” he said. “Such views in the context of freedom of expression are legitimate.

“How and why Boko Haram comes in only mirrors the state of panic and anger in the corridors of power at the manner in which the president was accosted. While the state anger is understandable, reference to Boko Haram is preposterous.”


Comments (9)

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Absolutely there was nothing sinister as journalist they did a good job in trying to get answers without fear or bias otherwise it would have been unethical to refrain based on individual social class. Their questioning was fair, reasonable and respectable. Remember a President is supposed to be a servant to people not an untouchable being.

Dee - 4 June 2015

The uncouth, hooliganism behavior of Nigerian so called journalists must be condemned in the strongest terms. The behavior is un-African and they would not dare try that in any Western countries. As much as Fidel Castro was despised in the US , he was still accorded time and space at the UN. Western countries understand the importance of civility even in situations where you may not agree and visiting head of states are given adequate security by the host country. The Zimbabwean government needs to address this with Nigerian Buhari led government at the highest level. Job well done Jonathan Moyo. We are all equally disgusted.

Order - 4 June 2015

Mr Order, please speak for yourself. I was not disgusted and I know many other people who were elated by the little show. What really pleased me was that Mugabe and his idiots could not murder the lady like they'd have done had the whole thing taken place here in Zimbabwe. It's good to know that all of Mubage's idiots are fuming with unabated anger.

John Maimbo - 5 June 2015

What kind of junos who do not know that Zimbabwe had elections in 2013. We can't have elections every year to please other people from outside Zimbabwe.

Kollen - 5 June 2015

If sahara jounarlist is sister to boko horam then him Moyo is brother to gukurahundi which has 20 000 skulls of innocent zimbabweans under its belt. Sahara tv is not zbc it is run by professional journalists who do not sing for their food . Moyo is very jealous bcoz these youngsters have made a name for them selves they now command a huge follow in zimbabwe . Their stuff is second to non . Thank you sahara twaalumba sahara well done . Please do not worry about motor mouth he some times just hallucinate just like that he is not harmful at all.

Diibulaanyika - 5 June 2015

The only Boko haram i know is Jona.

Tahir Iqbal - 5 June 2015

A blast killed 30 or 300 in Nigeria and where are the professional sahara reporters you Nhlahla? You follow to try and embarrass President Mugabe when your very Nigeria is burning you fools and idiots.

Chasura - 5 June 2015

Dhiburanyini please follow the killings happening in Nigeria and stop supporting these Sahara fools who can see fire threatening Zimbabwe when Nigeria is burning-Blast killed 300. What is your take on this one?

Raffiki - 5 June 2015

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