'We are a vital security sector of democracy'

HARARE - Yesterday Daily News Senior Assistant Editor Guthrie Munyuki addressed military and intelligence personnel drawn from the country and the neighbouring countries studying at the National Defence College of Zimbabwe which was holding its National Defence Course Media Day whose theme was “Identification, protection and promotion of national interests.”

Below is the full text of his speech.

Thank you very much for inviting the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday and the Weekend Post, to this discussion opportunity.

Indeed, we at ANZ and the Daily News are always very grateful for opportunities such as this one, where we can exchange notes and enrich each other about developments in our beloved motherland.

Allow me also to point out that your invitation to us came at an important time in the history of our country; characterised by a number of noteworthy, and sometimes unsettling developments on many fronts, including in the political, economic and social arenas.

For example, we have all witnessed the difficulties besetting our economy, the citizen unrest of the past few months, and the worrying infighting within the ruling Zanu PF, just to mention a few of the more important developments.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a very short summary of the climate in which we are meeting today, and in which we in the media operate.

But before I focus on the specific topic which you asked me to discuss, that is, National Interest And The Media, please allow me to open my presentation by talking generally about the business of news, as well as about Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) — the publishers of the Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday and the Weekend Post.

I hope that as I make this rather naked marketing pitch, you will begin to see where I am heading, as I attempt to discuss today’s most interesting topic!

The business of news continues to change everyday around the world.

As a result, news media, including in Zimbabwe, are undergoing significant change, with a move from mostly print to digital, online and mobile platforms.

Like everyone else in our industry, ANZ is shifting its strategy from being a purely print-based organisation to one that is digital in both philosophy and practice: hence our ever-increasing menu of offerings beyond print, such as on Twitter, Facebook, our websites and News on the Go.

However, print is still an important part of our business, even as the idea of who produces news is increasingly being challenged by the rise in citizen journalism and the way social media is being used by ordinary people to break and play with news.

It is also very important to understand that our company ANZ is unashamedly in the business of creating, marketing and making money out of news.

Yes, when everything is said and done, we are no different from Delta Corporation, OK or TM supermarkets; only that unlike them, we trade in news content.

Flowing from the above, ANZ’s strategy is premised on offering unique content to our readers: and those of you who follow our products will know that we don’t report on news like any of our competitors, all this by design.

Just to drive this point home, we always do things the ANZ way, hence the Daily News’s well-known motto: Telling it like it is, without fear or favour!

This deliberate, and dare I say successful strategy, is what differentiates us from other media houses in Zimbabwe.

And not only is this unique approach of ours to news good for our circulation figures and sales revenues, it also opens up attractive marketing channels for our advertisers.

We thus unashamedly exist for our readers, which means that whatever we do is for them and them only.

To underline this point, we do not write what we write for ourselves, our friends, our families or even our shareholders! It is all for you, our readers!

And as I have alluded to above, all available information, as well as our business indicators suggest that we have a very loyal and diverse readership that cuts across social, economic, political and professional divides.

And the idea here is to keep and grow this critical readership, which is the reason why we continue to thrive as a business.

I hope that this strategic overview has helped to explain to you how we in the media go about doing what we do, and why.

Let me now attempt to zero in on our topic day, which is National Interest And The Media.

My short answer to this is that YES, the media do not only appreciate national interest, we are indeed very patriotic: much, much more patriotic than many of our detractors give us credit for!

I can see some of you wondering how this can be and how come then that our critics, mostly a few politicians, often go to town criticising us?

The answer here again is short and simple: Our critics savage us because we do not write what they would like us to write about them, their political parties, their businesses and our beloved country!

Crucially, these critics do not also believe in a rich marketplace of ideas and varying views in the country, and expediently confuse a robust and truthful media with a lack of patriotism, and therefore not caring about national interests.

But before we get carried away, let’s try to have a common understanding of what national interest is, because I am not convinced that what some of our leaders often refer to as national interest is what all our people understand this concept to be about.

At ANZ, our understanding of national interest is that this refers to a country’s goals and ambitions, be they economic, political, military or cultural.

Crucially, we believe that national interest cannot be divorced from the majority of the country’s people enjoying all their rights, including economic and political ones.

In this light too, we absolutely believe that national interest becomes a bogus and crass concept when it is pushed by those in power when the majority of a country’s citizens are dying of hunger and disease, are not truly free, live in abject poverty and cannot even dream of a better future while their rulers live in undeserved, excessive luxury.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me elaborate on this clearly and take you back to the days of our gallant liberation struggle.

Although I was very young then, the majority of our people understood and completely bought into the need to sacrifice for our liberation, with many of our brothers and sisters sacrificing their very lives for this noble cause.

The word “liberation” at the time carried a clear and unambiguous meaning across the length and breadth of this country.

And the crucial question to ask at this point is why the question of national interest is such a hazy, contested territory unlike what liberation meant to our people before independence?

While I do not have the answers to this question, I do have my views on all this and also hope that I am helping other fellow Zimbabweans by raising these points.

My hope is also that in this forum and other places in our country, Zimbabweans are thinking carefully about what national interest means, and beyond this, also thinking more deeply about who we are as a nation, where we are coming from, where we are going, and what we can all do to make sure that all our citizens get all of democracy’s dividends that they so richly deserve.

To summarise, because I don’t want to hog the limelight, this is why we at the Daily News, as a national and patriotic newspaper, we always ‘tell it like it is’: without fear or favour: because by so reporting, we think that we are working in the national interest.

Fortunately, the vast majority of Zimbabweans appreciate this patriotic duty of ours, and support our work to the hilt — as evidenced by the tens of thousands of readers and scores of advertisers who enthusiastically part with their money everyday in support of our work.

This, of course does not mean that the media, and specifically the private media, is above reproach or incapable of making mistakes.

But that doesn’t make us any less important just because we sometimes get things wrong as we strive to do the best for our readers and country.

I personally find it curious that a few people sometimes choose, expediently, to blame some of us in the media for Zimbabwe’s myriad challenges, rather than reflect properly and deeply on the real reasons why and how our country is having these challenges.

The pertinent question to ask is: Is the media supposed to pretend that there are no serious and worsening factional and succession fights within Zanu PF, for example, as some people want us to do, and even as these wars are impacting negatively on the country and on all Zimbabweans?

Isn’t it also bizarre that a few people think that the media are a bigger problem, to mention another example, than dealing with the serious corruption that is devouring the heart of this nation, and which is seeing some people live like kings despite earning relatively low official salaries and while many Zimbabweans are starving?

And is a patriotic media one which ignores misrule and incompetence, or one which reports on these scourges? I will let you be the judges on these searching questions.

Ladies and gentlemen, one of journalism’s most important functions is to be a watchdog over those who wield power, no matter how uncomfortable this can sometimes be.

Indeed, the media are at their most useful to society and also most patriotic when they are challenging and probing, not fawning or kowtowing to rulers.

I submit that if the media slip up in this regard, we would not only have lost sight of the national interest, we would crucially have let the country down, and especially those who laid down their lives during the struggle for independence for all of us to be free.

In our own way, and like all of you here, we are a vital security sector of democracy!

I do hope that with these few remarks that we can get a proper two-way communication going today, so that we can all contribute to a common understanding of this important topic and the building of a better Zimbabwe that works for ALL Zimbabweans!

Let the debate begin!

I THANK YOU!

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