Grace's comments on private media hailed

HARARE - Media activists have reacted positively to First Lady Grace Mugabe’s change of tone towards the private press, saying such a development is good for the country.

MISA-Zimbabwe executive director Nhlanhla Ngwenya said Grace’s comments, coming after reports that she was allegedly parcelling out rice packs to journalists, can only indicate that she is trying to make peace with the media.

“She or her handlers have realised that she needs the media more than they need her.

“But whatever her intentions and the underlying motivation of her sudden change of heart, the issue is that her remarks are good for the private media, which not so long ago would have felt threatened when covering her rallies.

“And because of her influential position, such a position may go a long way in curtailing extra-legal harassment of the media by political activists who have been at the forefront of beating up, harassing and barring journalists they deemed to be reporting negatively on their political masters,” said Ngwenya.

He said words should now be followed by action such as pushing for comprehensive legislative safeguards for the media.

“She must also categorically call for the repeal of a gamut of laws that continue to pose serious threats for the media and journalists.”

Media activist Takura Zhangazha said Grace has probably realised that the media does not pose a threat to her politically.

“She is more affable towards it but this does not signify a complete intention to mollycoddle the private media or any other press.

“The stories being written are not necessarily in her favour. If they were to become favourable then the problem of misunderstanding the role of the media in a democratic society would not just be at her doorstep but also that of journalists themselves.”

Zhangazha added that Grace’s newfound belief that they are some leeches in Zanu PF indicates that there is no smoke without a fire.

“And in any event, their worry that there are people who are giving journalists information reflects that the media is not wrong in its reporting of the factionalism.”

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