State media silence shocking

HARARE - The local public media’s silence on skirmishes involving First Lady Grace Mugabe in South Africa, where she allegedly severely assaulted a 20-year-old woman she had found with her sons at an upmarket hotel in Sandton is shocking to say the least.

Grace is the President’s wife and a public figure, hence the nation needed to be updated by the public media — both electronic and print — on such an occurrence.

While all television news channels from around the world were reporting on Grace’s case, we thought that our public media would notify and update us on the first lady’s brush with the law in South Africa.

This was not to be as the public media completely ignored the story as though nothing ever happened.

Such blackout should not be tolerated, especially when we are talking of the country’s first lady.

The public media’s censorship of such an important occurrence puts to doubt the public media’s sincerity to publishing the truth about high-profile figures.

Interestingly, and curiously too, Grace recently  lashed out at Information permanent secretary George Charamba whom she accused of using State media to censor certain personalities — this time it was to her advantage.

There was no need for the public media to completely ignore Grace’s case because this actually brews gossip and alarming theories around the first family.

One wonders how many important national stories are swept under the carpet by State media houses.

The public media should remember that they are the government’s mouthpiece and we expect them to operate as such, updating us on issues of national importance.

Similarly, when Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently fell sick, we expected to hear more about his condition through State media.

It was not to be with government only responding later through the Health minister. State electronic media, especially television, failed in its role as a public broadcaster in updating us on Mnangagwa’s health. Remember he is the country’s vice president.

We hope the public media and government has learnt a lesson or two in that in today’s world of social media, news travels fast and trying to blackout such stories with public interest will not hold.

The recent blackout of Grace’s fracas in South Africa and even Mnangagwa’s illness, especially on State television, is the reason why Zimbabweans are calling for a swift liberalisation of the broadcasting sector so as to include private players.

And as we fast approach the 2018 elections, we expect the self-censorship at ZBC to heighten up and probably even suspect that even if political violence involving the ruling Zanu PF breaks out, such news items may not find favour with the public broadcaster.

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