EXCLUSIVE: Media in Zimbabwe 'is failing to play its role effectively'

Award winning Zimbabwean journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, has criticised the state of the media in the southern African country ahead of crunching election on July 30.

In an interview with News24, the renowned documentary maker said that both the private and state-owned media in Zimbabwe were failing to play their roles as they seemed obligated to take sides in their coverage.

"The problem is not only within the state-owned media - it's on both sides. They both feel obligated to pick a side in how they are reporting. They simple do not understand the tenets of fair reporting, they lack impartiality. It will take time before the media is able to deliver on its mandate," said Chin’ono.

Chin’ono's remarks came less than a week after the Zimbabwean state-owned media consented to reporting fairly, honestly, and equally on all political players ahead of the forthcoming elections.

This was after a Zimbabwean parliamentary watchdog Veritas, which is also known as the Firinne Trust, sued the state media entities that included the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and Zimpapers for partisan reporting, according to NewsDay.

Equal, fair and honest coverage

At the time, Lawyers for Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) - the holding company for The Herald, The Sunday Mail and Star FM - consented to a legal demand to avail "equal, fair and honest coverage to all political players".

But, according to Chin'ono, the state-owned media has failed to implement any editorial changes despite issuing a letter of intent last week.

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"They have not done any of that, they were just issuing a letter of intent. The problem is not an editorial problem, it's the lack of political will. The same people who were there in the old administration are still there. So, it's not a question of inability, but it's about unwillingness to make changes," said Chin'ono.

The institute for Security Studies (ISS), also said that the lack of reforms in the country's media was not new and would require a strong political will to address.

Senior researcher at ISS, Derek Matyszak told News24 that the state-owned media had remained a "propaganda and government mouthpiece" for a very long time and, therefore, changes were unlikely going to be implemented immediately.

"For the past years, the state owned media was being used as a government propaganda machinery, so any fundamental changes are not going to take place anytime soon.

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