THE media wields strength to create a peaceful environment and provide the first level of intelligence to alert law enforcement agencies of potential violence and conflict, hence journalists should uphold high levels of professionalism to avoid destabilising prevailing calm.
Speaking in Kariba, Monday during the ongoing Zimbabwe Online Content Creators (ZOCC) national media forum coming in the aftermath of contested presidential election results, Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) Chairperson, Professor Ruby Magosvongwe urged journalists and content creators to be professional, shun the propagation of fake news, misinformation and hate speech.
“Media builds perceptions and influences how we view the world around us. In this new digital world, the majority of the people believe and are convinced by what they get out of the digital media – this precisely is where the harm is when the digital media is unprofessional and manipulated, spreading fake news, misinforming and carrying hate speech.
“To avoid harm, digital media has to be credible. The promotion of a democratic culture demands responsible digital media,” said Magosvongwe.
“Being responsible not only means telling the truth and being factual, but also abiding by the law and being honest in the way a media practitioner gathers information – there is a need to be sensitive to the needs, rights of others, and the general good of society.
“General good conduct entails the digital media should be responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people, build positive lives, create and sustain peace – and above all champion national interests and development aspirations of the people.
“Media provides a first level of intelligence by alerting law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders of the potential of violence and conflict.
“This allows quick action to be taken to avoid potential violence and conflict. In conflict management, digital media can provide solutions as it deals directly with sources,” she said.
The ZMC boss reiterated social media has transformed the tools available to conflict parties as it creates opportunities by assisting in data collection and analysis, bolstering peace messaging and diversifying dialogue.
“There are calls for a digital media that advocates for national economic development, social and political development and above all, national cohesion through peaceful co-existence and nurturing our young democracy.
“The digital media should advance and protect our democratic ideals and values as a nation.”
Given the fact that 2023 harmonised elections have been concluded, she noted, the electoral cycle does not end with the voting process but is ongoing till the next voting period.
“Zimbabwe has taken steps to ensure that the media operate in a conducive environment when performing their proper function in the democratic space.
“The spirit of the legal instruments is to ensure a fair, balanced and objective coverage of all political parties and contestants.
“These legal provisions are in addition to the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the African Union Charter on Elections…”
Magosvongwe called upon media players to conduct themselves professionally when carrying out their day to day work, adding there is never time for agenda-driven journalism, fake news, misinformation, disinformation and hate speech within the profession.
“Hate speech is abhorrent and cannot be acceptable. To our media practitioners, the only way we can defend and enhance our profession is by sticking to the cardinal principles of the profession.
“The profession is a science based on facts. This being the case, we call upon all to respect the sanctity of facts,” Magosvongwe told participants.