What is it that Zimbabwean journalists want to write that they cannot write?


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What is it that Zimbabwean journalists want to write that they cannot write? I was asked this question by a colleague who was a journalist during the liberation struggle but is now retired. Honestly I could not find an answer.

The debate about media freedom has been raging in Zimbabwe for years, especially since the enactment of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. But too often I hear voices of activists rather than working journalists.

I continue to see stories by Zimbabwean journalists who cannot be named for security reasons, three years after the formation of the inclusive government and some of the stories are not even political. They are about HIV/Aids.

I ask myself, did the journalist not want her name published for security reasons, or simply because she would be fired by her employer because she is not allowed to freelance.

I am not saying we have media freedom in Zimbabwe, but at the same time I cannot say we do not have that freedom- but personally I have not been stopped from writing any story by anyone except my own inability to get the information to get the necessary information.

Is the government hiding or denying me access to information? Yes. Which government does not?

Is the private sector hiding any information? Yes, probably worse than the government? Our labour laws even say it is a dismissible offence for an employee to disclose information that is likely to damage the reputation of the company.

Does civil society hide information? Yes. It is probably worse than the government and the private sector. What is more irritating is that it is at the forefront of condemning everyone else.

So, what is my argument then? My argument is that it is my duty as a journalist, to get that information that the government, the private sector and civil society does not want me to get, through legal and professional means. That is a skill that can be learnt.

I have therefore decided to open a platform for journalists to tell me what stories they want to write that they cannot write and I will help them write those stories.

I can understand a situation where journalists are able to write stories but cannot get them published even in the so-called independent media. There too, I am willing to help. I will publish them.

Here I am talking about real stories. I am not talking about lies, rumours or innuendo. I am talking about real stories, properly researched stories, stories that have been verified.

I am willing to go this extra mile because in my view while the country has transformed- I know some people will not agree with me- the media does not seem to have transformed, or at least at the same pace as the little transformation that we see politically and economically.

I am not asking anyone to agree with me, but to open up the debate on our media, because it is the media that shapes perceptions about our country.

I am also not confining this debate to journalists alone, but am opening it to the public. I would like to hear from you what stories you would like us to write that you think we are not currently writing about.

Send me your ideas or contributions to: [email protected].

I will publish any opinion that is sent to me and will only edit the piece for grammar and spelling.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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