Use donor funding to make sure we build this country, not kuti mudye mari yacho mega
By Auther Chimbgwa
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister Kindness Paradza has staunchly defended government against claims of abuse on journalists, adding, he was still committed to his appointment brief by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to “make journalists happy”.
He was speaking at the Annual Media Stakeholders Conference attended by journalists, media-based groups, academia, media committee MPs, among others, at a Harare hotel Wednesday.
Stakeholders bemoaned continued lack of media reforms, need for the relaxation of a tough licensing regime, lack of state funding to media, and a stop on the harassment of journalists as recently witnessed by the arrest and subsequent acquittal of investigative scribe Hopewell Chin’ono.
But the former Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) president quickly put on his political jacket and ranted at his former colleagues for continued attempts to hold government to ransom and ignoring efforts placed so far to bring about media reforms.
“I think we are losing it; let’s not dwell too much on historical factors. Let’s move forward.
“We spent 37 years writing documents, trying to perfect the English language but in the last three years, we have moved mountains, reformed media,” he said.
Paradza, a veteran journalist turned politician, said it was actually President Mnangagwa who first talked about the need for media reforms when he was then justice minister back in 1993.
The former Tribune publisher added that media practitioners should “let bygones be bygones” as the abusive Robert Mugabe regime which also ordered the closure of his paper back in 2004 was gone.
“Some of you are angry, I am also angry and so forth. So, please, there is a time when we must say let bygones be bygones and move forward.
“The picture you are trying to paint in this country is as if journalists are being harassed left, right and centre, which is not true. We have incidents, just one or two.
“Let’s change the narrative now. Let’s build this country together. I am one of you. I was also affected by Jonathan Moyo; so, let’s move forward.
“This government has done a lot in the last three years…so, that is my plea, use donor funding to make sure we build this country, not kuti mudye mari yacho mega (not for you to spend the money on your own).
Instead of “harping on history”, Paradza said media players should consider channelling donor funds towards unpacking the 2014 Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) report he said was brimming with answers to what they were continuously demanding.
The Makonde legislator said some journalists have a tendency of playing to the gallery by faking abuse by the state.
He cited an incident in which a local journalist once caught beer drinking during odd hours insisted on enjoying immunity from arrest while claiming he was on a mission to investigate lockdown violations by shebeen owners.
Paradza was adamant co-regulation of the media was a cabinet decision, adding, “so, we are not going to reverse that. We can debate and do whatever but let’s stick to that.”
Media lawyer and co-panellist Chris Mhike had earlier expressed concern at a shrinking media operating environment occasioned by the enactment of repressive laws by the current administration.
He, however, commended the government for repealing some draconian legislation such as the Access to Information and Privacy Act (AIPPA).
“Nevertheless, many journalists are not happy with the current laws…too many journalists are being arrested but the state has not yet secured significant convictions as is the case with Hopewell Chinono,” said Mhike.