EDITORIAL COMMENT: With freedom comes responsibility, simple

During a luncheon hosted by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing last week, President Mugabe said something we thought all well-meaning journalists in the country would heed. The President said journalists should report objectively and desist from peddling falsehoods, even against their political opponents.

He highlighted that personally, he had been attacked by media that considered him a political enemy, to the extent of manufacturing thoughts for him. He said: “We would want freedom, we want people to make money. You might not share my politics and I might not share your politics, but it doesn’t mean we are enemies. You may criticise me where I go wrong, sure, but don’t give me sins I haven’t committed; offences I haven’t committed; actions I haven’t done and thoughts I haven’t entertained in my mind.

“Let us, wherever we are employed do our best. Even if you are journalists, tell the truth and do not live on lies . . . That is very poor journalism.” President Mugabe noted that newspapers were always fabricating and sensationalising issues to excite people and push sales.

Two important aspects stand out. First, President Mugabe is as human as we all are and has unduly been hurt by unfair negative coverage. Secondly, he is the President of this country and Zimbabwe has suffered immeasurably from the negativity emanating from the so-called independent media. We find it reprehensible that people should abuse their positions as journalists to fight political battles and in the case of private media, political battles on behalf of former colonisers who founded and fund them and their cousins in the opposition. Zimbabwe has been generous with this otherwise treasonous opposition front.

A story is told of how some visitors into the country from the West often gape at the amount of mud thrown at President Mugabe — who is supposed to be a dictator — by these private media. Zimbabwe is free and the continued existence and practice of these fifth columnists is testimony to that, but there should be a limit, a kind of low that people should not allow themselves to sink to.

We are surprised that our friends from the “independent” media took umbrage at President Mugabe’s kind protest and advice. They deliberately twisted that to mean the President had threatened the media and, according to one organisation, “such blatant threats can potentially trigger extra-legal violation of media freedom by political activists, who in the past have — with impunity — harassed and beat up media practitioners as well as torched and barred from circulation media products they deemed reflected badly on their political parties and leaders.”

It’s all exaggeration! President Mugabe did not make a “blatant threat” and he certainly is not for the kind of anarchy that the above comment is trying to construe. Rather, he is calling for restraint and responsibility in the media and practice of the trade. But the President’s kind call for responsibility in the media was met with thoughtlessness by the so-called independent media, as expected. They do not want to reform and be responsible.

They want to sell us the idea that they are the paragon of journalism and their actions above reproach. It’s such a nauseating shame. The truth is that they are no more than paid opposition pipers protected by Zimbabwean law and other institutions, but investing their loyalty in foreign capitals. They are paid by foreign forces, who provide them with newsprint, so that they can aid regime change in this country.

They are embedded with the Western sponsored opposition. They cannot claim to be champions of free speech when their speech is paid for by the country’s detractors. There’s no virtue at all in what they want to peddle as freedom of the media and expression. If that was the case, they would know that they are not above the law and respect other people’s rights.

Why should a responsible media seek to thrive on sensationalism, fibs and fabrications? There is something obviously wrong with them.