The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has said a free press is one of the pillars of a constitutional democracy and an essential means of public participation in decision making and urged the political leadership to guarantee it to be enable citizens to make informed decisions.
“The People’s Democratic Change is aware of the fact that authoritarian regimes deliberately suppress free flow of information so as to pursue a narrow selfish agenda of self-aggrandisement and power retention. Such has been the case of Zimbabwe since independence; it seems the coming in of the Lacoste frontman into the highest office has not changed the situation either,” PDP said.
It noted that the past few days have seen an increase in misleading lies churned out by the state just to portray the administration as a reformist government.
PDP said the state media was awash with talk of fighting corruption by the new President but the absence of diversity in the electronic media had left glaring gaps and a failure to ask critical questions.
“Absence of alternative voices has left those aligned to the new administration being painted as saints when they are at the centre of corrupt activities. They were at the centre of the missing 15 billion dollars yet no questions are being asked due to the suppression of a free public press whose responsibility is to expose this kind of rot. Failure to expose shady individuals is obviously a setback in any attempt to combat graft if the presidential speeches were genuine.”
The party warned that the private media was being coerced and intimidated with growing attempts to capture and compromise senior scribes. It expressed concern over what it termed “the personalisation of the state media which has since been converted into private property of the first family.”
The Herald and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) were accused of now following the President to church – a new phenomenon uncharacteristic even of the Mugabe regime.
While the ZBC has an obligation to inform as a public broadcaster, the broadcasting monopoly created in Zimbabwe is the source of mediocrity, PDP averred.
Since competition is the best way of transformation, the PDP demanded that the licensing of television and radio stations be professionally conducted as opposed to the previous arrangement when broadcasting licenses were only awarded to ZANU (PF) oligarchs.
It added that with the shadows of yet another election upon us, the free access to media by all political parties must be a reality while the status quo reflects the old approach, dealing a blow to the Lacoste claim of ensuring a free and fair election.
PDP urged the media to reoccupy its role as an agenda setter, an aid to development and champions of accountability and transparency.
“The media must expose those who claim that they will use scheduled flights during the day and charter plains during the night. It is the role of the media to expose those who claim to fly coach in a chartered flight. The citizen must be informed. Serious media reforms are needed, that is the only way to create an open society and more importantly it is a key benchmark if any progress will be made.
Only a free press can give a true account of progress or regression, a free press informs reluctance and pretence. The reluctance to open a full inquiry into the Marange diamonds, reluctance to investigate the Ministers involved in the Air Zimbabwe scandal and the pretence around commitment to reform. We view the current narrative dominated by Lacoste inspired fake news and spin as a huge call for media reform.”