Zimbabwean journalists face a number of challenges as they try to discharge their duties.
As journalists exercise their fundamental press freedom rights, a good number are prone to harassment, poor remuneration, arrests or even death.
According to UNESCO, statistics revealed that in 2017 alone 79 journalists were killed worldwide, a clear indication that journalists are not safe at all as they discharge their duties.
Media practitioners and humanitarian organisations representatives who attended the World Press Freedom Day in Harare highlighted challenges faced by journalists in their day to day operations as they strive to report issues without fear or intimidation.
AB Communications Chief Executive Officer Mrs Susan Makore told the ZBC News that female journalists are mainly victims of sexual harassment with depressed remunerations in newsrooms.
“Some journalists face challenges in terms of safety issues for they work 24 hours for news gathering,” said Mrs Makore.
Humanitarian Facilitation Centre Director Mrs Virginia Muwanigwa concurred that freedom of expression is not being recognised.
“I think the main challenge is the failure by authorities to observe the international standards for press freedom,” Mrs Muwanigwa said.
Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations representative Mrs Pelagia Kapuya noted that the killing of journalists in other countries brings fear to journalists who are supposed to work in a free environment.
Media analysts say a multi sectoral approach is needed to make sure that all the challenges that face journalists can be addressed as the media is the driving force of information to the mass audiences.
The media throughout the world plays a key role in global development and as Zimbabwe charts through a new political and economic era, media is expected to play the strong pillar of creating a vibrant and democratic society.
As the world commemorated World Press Freedom Day this Thursday it emerged that media both private and public will be central in advancing the country’s political and economic agenda of rebuilding the economy to attain the middle income status envisioned for the year 2030.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is consistently preaching the gospel of peace and economic growth and development, hence the need to effectively disseminate and articulate these issues to the broader society.
“Reporting should be done in such a way that it includes the minorities and vulnerable, the messages being preached by the President on the economy should not only be for the elites but also need to be well-articulated to the marginalised groups of society,” said Mr Dumisani Muleya, Chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum .
Media practitioner Mr Nevanji Madanhire noted that as the country heads towards the harmonised elections set to be held in the next few months, the media will be a critical tool in making sure that the electorate is provided with fair, balanced and ethical reportage so that voters can make informed choices.
“People are going to base their choices on the information made available to them. So the media is at the apex of availing that information in a balanced and unbiased manner,” said Mr Madanhire.
Over the past few years, the government of Zimbabwe has made significant strides of liberalising the country’s airwaves which has culminated in the establishment of several privately owned media houses, a move that has been widely commended.
In the advent of social media platforms, the public has also been warned to guard against fake news that can sow divisions and alarm amongst the people and calls have been made to regulate these platforms as part of the country’s cyber security policy.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists Secretary General Foster Dongozi says the welfare of journalists leaves a lot to be desired.
“As an organisation that represents media personnel the major hurdles that they face are regarding welfare. Many media practitioners are paid low wages, have no access to health care. Even decent accommodation has eluded many of them. The risks as they also go about their day to day duties are also there particularly during times such as elections,”
While different organisations that stand for the rights of the media practitioners have championed a number of programmes to assist journalists, more needs to be done to transform their lives.