JOURNALISM standards in the country have sharply dropped since 2000 due to a number of factors, chief among them state interference, low salaries as well as poor working conditions and the polarised nature of the operating environment.
According to a Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) report entitled The State of Journalism Ethics in Zimbabwe, journalism has deteriorated to pathetic levels compared to pre-2000 standards when journalists carried out their duties with less state interference.
The VMCZ report says the journalism profession took a nosedive after former Information minister Jonathan Moyo introduced repressive measures to stifle the media following his appointment in 2000, soon after Zanu PF secured a narrow win over the MDC in parliamentary elections.
Poor remuneration and working conditions, especially during the economic meltdown, exposed journalists to corruption and other unethical practices as scribes struggled to make ends meet.
According to the VMCZ, the repressive working environment and poor salaries undermined professionalism.
The major reason cited by the VMCZ for the decline of journalism in Zimbabwe is the polarisation of politics after the formation of the MDC in 1999. The political clash between Zanu PF and the MDC in 2000 also shifted to the newsrooms where some journalists were turned into “political activists” or “commissars”.
Increased access to the internet has also contributed to the decline of journalism as scribes compete to write stories and post on the internet for monetary gain even without proper research as they strive to supplement meagre incomes.
Many stories are based on anonymous sources with journalists hiding behind anonymity.