NewsDay under fire over falsehoods

The cover of yesterday's NewsDay edition

The cover of yesterday’s NewsDay edition

Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
NewsDay has come under fire from media experts for deliberately writing a false story alleging that Cabinet missed nine sittings since January 27 as President Mugabe concentrated on foreign trips.

They described the story as gutter, desperate and pathetic journalism.

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Quoting unnamed sources, the paper published a story on Tuesday claiming that “the President’s endless trips have left the Government on virtual autopilot.”

Although the paper published a retraction yesterday, media analysts said the story was a deliberate and malicious fabrication designed to incite people to revolt against national leadership.

Others said the media industry should come up with a professional regulatory framework to punish members who transgressed key tenets of their job, lest the State might be forced to do that for them.

The statutory board that regulates media operations in the country, the Zimbabwe Media Commission, said it was not happy with the unethical behaviour displayed by NewsDay.

Its chairperson, Mr Godfrey Majonga said: “In this particular story, ZMC is dismayed that the journalists are writing stories without verifying the facts. If they did (check) they must stick to the facts unless they have verified with other authentic sources.

“In this case they (NewsDay) should have verified their facts with the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet (Dr Misheck Sibanda).”

Mr Majonga urged journalists and media houses to be truthful when writing their stories, otherwise they would lose their credibility.

“We urge this journalist and other journalists to check their facts from true sources of the information they want,” he said.

Mr Majonga said ZMC was ready to take action on any injurious story as long as there was a complainant in the matter.

ZMC chief executive officer Dr Tafataona Mahoso said inasmuch as the media was calling for free regulation, journalists in Zimbabwe did not take their jobs and responsibilities seriously.

He said the Zimbabwe Union for Journalists was also not doing the profession good by not condemning such kind of behaviour.

“Journalists do not take their job seriously and ZUJ is not doing any good when it is not condemning its members for such recklessness. Until we have a regulatory framework for journalists such as the Law Society of Zimbabwe (for lawyers), we will continue to have problems like this one.

“Journalists should be punished by their own profession and if they don’t, the State should tighten laws again.

“Institutions such as ZUJ and the Editors Forum should find a way of punishing their members,” said Dr Mahoso.

He said the media should not seek to equate itself with the Executive or the Legislature when it does not have professional regulations that could be upheld by courts like other arms of the State.

Midlands State University lecturer Professor Nhamo Mhiripiri, said the NewsDay story was a deliberate ploy to incite public anger against the leadership and this should be condemned.

“They take advantage of the economic challenges affecting the nation to do a story that incites people that the leadership is no longer caring, and make people feel abandoned,” he said.

“If people feel that they have been abandoned by the leadership, they will take issues in their own hands and that will trigger public unrest.

“In that case, the media becomes political actors and should be judged in political terms because the insinuation is that the leadership has abandoned its people.

“We expect institutions such as the ZMC and the Voluntary Media Council to make statements condemning such recklessness.”

Another media expert based in Harare who refused to be named said: “The NewsDay should be ashamed of its story because it is bordered on fallacy and outright falsehoods.

“In light of the profession and standard benchmarks of world journalism, that story was way off the mark.

“It is unfortunate that a paper of repute can resort to such fiction and that can only best be described as poor and pathetic journalism.No retraction can convince the reader as the first story and if they genuinely wanted to retract the story they were supposed to give it the same prominence as the first story on the front page,” said the media analyst.

On Wednesday Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Sibanda said the assertions by the NewsDay were made by someone ignorant of the facts on the ground and bent on fomenting malicious slander.

“The writer of the article alleges a Zanu-PF Politburo member and top Government official as his ‘source’. The writer and/or indeed, the ‘source’ as it may be, is evidently unaware of the fact that on instances when Cabinet meetings are not held on the traditional day (Tuesday) the Chairman of Cabinet His Excellency the President has often fixed alternative days in the same week for the meetings, as has been the case a couple of occasions,” said Dr Sibanda.

Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo who is also the Government spokesperson, said the story was false and should only pass as a ‘Fools Day’ story.

Cabinet Meetings Held So Far in 2015

MEETING DATE DAY COMMENTS

First Meeting 27 January, 2015 Tuesday

Second Meeting 5 February, 2015 Thursday 3 Feb 2015 HE was in Ethiopia

Third Meeting 10 February, 2015 Tuesday

Fourth Meeting 17 February, 2015 Tuesday

Fifth Meeting 24 February, 2015 Tuesday

Sixth Meeting 3 March, 2015 Tuesday

Seventh Meeting 10 March, 2015 Tuesday

Eighth Meeting 23 March,2015 Monday Tuesday 17 March HE was in Japan

Ninth Meeting 1 April, 2015 Wednesday 24 March, 2015 HE was in Algeria