The Moyo story
I HEAR there was heated debate last week among scribes at their waterhole at the Quill Club. The crux of the discourse was the coverage Jonat
han Moyo has been receiving in the media, including the Zimbabwe Independent.
I also received angry phone calls this week from journos who believe passionately that covering Moyo, who without doubt was a bane of the media, is a great injustice to the profession.
The journalists were inflamed by the Q&A we had with Moyo last week.
Why should we not write about Moyo? “Because he is an enemy of press freedom. He closed down the Daily News and had reporters arrested on spurious charges. You are simply inflating the man’s ego,” a former Daily News staffer shouted into the phone on Tuesday.
The scribe reminded me of my arrest last year on charges of defaming President Mugabe and that I had spent the weekend as a state guest at Harare Central police station. I do not need to be reminded of that experience at all because it left indelible scars on my person.
Moyo had a hand in my arrest. He had a hand in the closure of the Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday and the Tribune. His purges at Zimpapers and the then Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation resulted in scores of good journalists losing their jobs. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) was an extension of his personality as an enemy of freedom and the press.
He might have led the charge in terrorising newspapers but he was not alone in the crusade. The Media and Information Commission fronted by Tafataona Mahoso, the police and our judicial system also put their boots in on the screaming media.
Then there were the Zanu PF crocodiles who voted for the enactment of Aippa. Should we also be advocating a blackout of these institutions because they conspired with Moyo?
Because of the catalogue of his heinous deeds and assault on basic freedoms, Moyo should not receive media coverage, self-assuring proponents of media freedom believe. But no, I beg to differ here. As a newspaper, we cannot take a conscious decision to shut out any individual from the media because he is an affront to our beliefs and aspirations.
We have been writing the Moyo story not because we support his actions or his views. The fact that he has turned his back against Zanu PF does not mean that he has metamorphosed into a saint. There is no Damascan experience here.
We still associate him with his infamy, but his insight into a number of issues, including media law, is useful to have.
He might have been kicked out of Zanu PF but he is still unrepentant especially when it comes to media law and those who what to vote for him should take heed.
Moyo still believes Aippa is a very good law which should be kept on our statute books. Moyo would never have stood at a rally to tell his flock in Tsholotsho “without qualms Aippa is a good law”. The interview smoked him out.
As media practitioners, it is our duty to record history whether we like the newsmaker or not. That is why Western journalists fell over each other in a search for an interview with demagogues like Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Josef Stalin. Who today would not like to interview Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or Chavez in Venezuela?
In the early years of our Independence, was Ian Smith, the epitome of white oppression, shut out of the news? He continued to give interviews in which we learnt of his refusal to accept black rule. That information is important for posterity.
Whether we want to accept it or not, the Moyo saga stands out as one of the most momentous incidents in Zimbabwe’s short political history.
Moyo will fizzle out of the media when he is no longer news just as what happened to former Zanu PF secretary-general Edgar Tekere.
He was a big story when he was kicked out of the party. The story only lasted as long as it was relevant to the political discourse of the day.
Also, if as media practitioners, we are for media freedom and plurality, it is fundamental that we walk the talk. Moyo abused the media by ensuring that opponents and enemies were denied coverage. That was an egregious act which we should not emulate. Politics of vengeance is the life-blood of out-of-sorts politicians and not media practitioners.
As media practitioners, should we not be talking about what media we want? Should we not be working towards the unbundling of terrible media laws? Do we have a common understanding of what constitutes media freedom?
Our salvation will not come from shutting out enemies of our freedoms. Apologies to those who differ with this view.