The continuous barring of journalists from the privately owned NewsDay from covering important national events is now a cause for great concern necessitating an urgent meeting of the minds for an amicable resolution of the matter at hand.
In an editorial in its edition of Friday, 25 November 2022, the daily poses the question: What crime did we commit as NewsDay?
This follows a series of events that have seen its journalists being barred from covering a national event at State House, including the ruling Zanu PF’s elective congress held in October this year.
On Thursday, 24 November 2022, the paper again reported that its reporters were barred from covering President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), at the new Parliament Building in Mount Hampden, Harare, on 23 November 2022.
According to NewsDay, this came after “someone” from Parliament reportedly deleted the names of its two reporters from the list of reporters accredited to cover the SONA, thereby effectively barring them from covering the presentation of the 2023 National Budget the next day.
As MISA Zimbabwe, we are also equally concerned as to what exactly could be the issue. In saying this, we are informed by NewsDay’s assertion that no reason was given for Parliament’s decision in that regard.
It is, therefore, our well-considered view that this impasse cannot be allowed to continue unabated as it is not only detrimental to the involved parties but shortchanges the citizens’ right to access important national information such as the President’s SONA and presentation of the National Budget.
We, therefore, urge the responsible authorities to bring their concerns to the fore and for the attention of NewsDay for an amicable resolution of the matter at hand.
The responsible authorities need NewsDay for the dissemination of critical national messages and foreign policy thrusts, locally and internationally.
Equally, the NewsDay needs the co-operation of the responsible authorities as reliable and authentic sources for disseminating accurate and easily verifiable information to enable their target audiences to make informed decisions and choices.
The imperative need for continued professional co-existence and mutual respect in the public interest should bind both parties.
To act otherwise goes against the grain of President Mnangagwa’s oft-repeated mantra of: Leaving no one and no place behind, of which the NewsDay cannot thus be excluded or discriminated against from important national events.
On the other hand, the State and all its agencies have an obligation to protect, promote and respect the Bill of Rights as espoused in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, of which it is the right of journalists to seek, access, receive and impart information from the State, including Parliament, in the interest of public accountability.
In doing so, the media should be professional in their conduct and strive for accuracy, balance and fairness in their reportage.
Where the media errs, it should acknowledge its mistakes and promptly take corrective measures in the spirit of media professionalism and accountability.
In that regard, aggrieved parties can also raise or file complaints with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Media Commission.
MISA Zimbabwe is, therefore, of the strong view that this is a matter that can easily be resolved without resorting to barring the publication from covering important national events, given the media’s role in the exercise and enjoyment of citizens’ right to access to information.