By Nkosana Dlamini
Media practitioners under their umbrella group, Zimbabwe Online Content Creators (ZOCC) have taken measures to create a code of ethics that allows them to ply their trade within both the confines of the law and ethics governing the trade.
The initiative has been made possible with expert support from the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ).
A lot of mainstream newspapers already subscribe to a Code of ethics that also allows members of the public feeling aggrieved by some media products to approach VMCZ for redress.
However, the advent of social media ushered in a new crop of mass media practitioners, among them, those with no journalism training which emphasises on ethics, leaving them at a constant risk of civil suits for some of their products.
Content producers include bloggers, video bloggers, podcasters, Vloggers, citizen journalists, social media influencers.
These play an important part of the wider public knowledge creation and influence debates and discussions nationally.
ZOCC on Friday convened a workshop for members to input into proposed additions to the ethics code.
Among some of the proposed sections to the code are the need for creators to credit sources of their published content when it is due; avoid the habitual use of unnamed sources unless the contrary can harm the sources; verify information from sources before publication and the need to guard one’s own integrity and credibility with both arguably being the currency through which creators command audiences for their products.
The proposed code also seeks to place an obligation on creators to guard their own independence, and if need be, declare their interests in cases where they may be perceived as biased towards certain quarters to the detriment of their brands.
Creators are also obliged, among others, to avoid misleading headlines and not to manipulate images to create false impressions of currency.
While the code has been received with satisfaction from a lot of practitioners, others felt some sections of the code erroneously sought to configure every content creator into a journalist and yet social media is a perceivably a zone that should allow everyone to express themselves free from any censure, self or otherwise.
Some felt the document placed a lot of emphasis on the need for one to preserve one’s integrity and yet some creators’ modus operandi draws currency from one being controversial in order to command audiences.
VMCZ executive director and workshop facilitator Loughty Dube promised to factor in the inputs into the final draft.
ZOCC chairperson Toneo Rutsito said ZOCC was a voluntary organisation whose code was crafted for serious practitioners who sought to protect their integrity through forms of compliance with professional behaviours that are central to their trade.
#CodeReviewZOCC The ZOCC chairman @toneo1st explains on who is a online content creator and how does one become a member and who must abide to the code of ethics @fojo_int @monitorszim @pressfreedom @forfreemedia @SwedeninZW @ZimMedia21 @usembassyharare @MAZ_Zim @misazimbabwe pic.twitter.com/MoMhHwDUir
— ZOCC (@ZOCCzw) November 12, 2021