ZwNews Chief Correspondent
The Minister of Information, Publicity, and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa’s call for an all inclusive media treatment came under test yesterday, after the police and state agents barred journalists from the private media form covering public hearings into the killings of civilians by soldiers on 1 August 2018.
The Kgalema Mothlante Commission of inquiry into the killings set off to bad start at the Cresta Lodge in Harare yesterday with only state media getting the green light to cover the proceedings. Only for private media journalists to be allowed later after they showed resilience.
Of concern is that, this came barely two days after Mutsvangwa declared that she would see to it that media both public and private, are treated the same.
During her meeting to bring together two warring parties renowned publisher Trevor Ncube, and deputy Minister of Information Energy Mutodi, who had of late almost become sworn enemies, Mutsvangwa said part of her ministerial mandate is to promote media diversity and pluralism.
“The ministry is not going to have an ‘us versus them’ attitude to private media, but will treat all players as a relevant fourth estate…,” said Mutsvangwa.
She added that media pluralism is key to the ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra and that her ministry will have an open door policy, so that diversity views can be heard.
“Let media criticise where wrongs have happened, and let them lead celebrations and national achievements,” she added.
However, what transpired at the public hearing leaves a lot to be desired, one would be forgiven for wondering if the country is indeed in a new dispensation or not, there was some tense antagonistic in the manner the private media was treated.
This reporter was among those denied access, the treatment appeared, as if being a member of the private media was a treasonous crime.
As if that was not enough, most of those who testified before the commission appeared to have had been coached on what to and not to say. Many gave reference to how the opposition supporters allegedly damaged property, but said nothing about the shooting by the army.
Meanwhile, the Media Institute for Southern Africa- Zimbabwe chapter (MISA-Zimbabwe) says the stance taken by the state to bar journalists from private media was unfortunate and called on for the minister break from the past, adding that this, should never happen again.
MISA-Zimbabwe says without full media participation, active citizen participation is curtailed.
“There is need for heightened publicly in line with the country’s language diversity and media reach, so that there is active citizen participation,” says MISA-Zimbabwe.
The country has a track record for barring private media from ruling party and government events. At one time, President Mnangagwa who was then a state Vice-President blocked private media from his press conference.
Some time last year, a senior ZANU PF official stopped private media from covering a function, this angered even journalists from the public media who walked out from the function in solidarity with their counterparts from the private media.
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