Media reform is crucial to the successful implementation and fruition of two very important processes for the country, namely the constitution-making process and the national healing agenda.
It is quite saddening that a year after the successful consummation of the inclusive government, we are yet to see new players in the media fraternity that has for long been dominated by a heavily partisan state-controlled media.
The state-controlled media continues to report various issues from a purely one-sided perspective, that of Zanu PF. Other parties to the inclusive government, particularly the MDC-T continue to be victims of negative publicity from the state media. Whilst the parties have agreed to reform the media in line with provisions of Article XIX of the Global Political Agreement, there remains no change in the media situation of the country.
This unfortunate situation has negatively affected the constitution-making process as a lot of Zimbabweans, especially those in rural, remote and other marginalised areas are in the dark over the current reform process.
The Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) spearheading the writing of the new constitution has admitted that information pertaining to its mandated process is not getting to the grassroots, the result being an indifferent attitude towards this process by these communities. A lot of people, especially the youth, are unaware of what a constitution entails and what benefits it has to their everyday lives and their communities. One cannot then expect them to actively participate in the constitution-making process from an informed position. Such a scenario will only help those who are opposed to a genuinely people-centred constitutional reform process.
The same goes for the national healing process which seems to be dying in its infancy. While a lot of impetus was shown by the principals in achieving national healing soon after the consummation of the inclusive government, this zeal has gradually died down as the parties to the GPA continue to haggle over outstanding issues.
The state-controlled media has not helped matters as it continues to demonise the MDC side of government in overtures that have spread to the grassroots communities. The hate speech propagated by columnists and presenters from state media houses has only ensured that the hostilities that were present in the communities post-June 27 2008 continue to hamper reconciliation efforts.
The Youth Forum continues to call upon the players in government to put aside petty differences for the good of the nation. It is commendable that they have agreed to media reform and have made positive strides in the short-listing of a Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC). However there is need to ensure that the ZMC commences its work and licenses new players in the media industry. We also implore government through the ZMC to consider seriously setting up a workable framework for community media initiatives.
We would want to see more community newspapers, radio and even television stations being set-up at community level as they can play a very important role in articulating issues and driving development at community level. Players in government should also try and ensure that the state media desists from pushing partisan agendas and start fulfilling its role as a genuine peoples’ broadcaster.
Information & Publicity.