ACTING Information minister Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana last Friday angered journalists by saying he was concerned by “paupers” in the profession.
He was speaking on media regulation
at the Quill Club in Harare.
The newsmen from the private and public media objected to the utterances, reminding Mangwana that government was to blame for the high unemployment levels among journalists because it had sanctioned the closure of private newspapers.
Since 2003, government has shut down the Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday, the Tribune and the Weekly Times.
Zimbabwe has also witnessed high-handed arrests of journalists in the private media, very often where there was no case against them. Mangwana said journalists complained too much about Zimbabwe’s draconian media laws instead of confronting their employers for better salaries and working conditions.
He claimed that journalists were fighting wars on behalf of publishers and editors when their stomachs were empty.
“I am concerned when I see paupers among journalists,” Mangwana said. “There is high unemployment among journalists. Instead of complaining, why can’t you organise yourselves for better salaries, form an NEC (National Employment Council) for journalists, for example, which will set minimum salary levels?”
But while Mangwana complained about poor remuneration, journalists said his ministry had done little to improve salaries and working conditions for journalists working for public media institutions.
Mangwana criticised the private media, singling out the Zimbabwe Independent for reporting negatively about government.
“I was reading the Independent one day and from page 1 to 45 there were negative stories about government. Does it mean that government had done nothing positive in that week?” the minister complained.
He said while it was acceptable that society had divergent views, media practitioners should also complement government efforts in the national interest.
In response journalists queried why government wanted them to keep quiet when it blatantly violated human rights, the rule of law, muzzled the media and when there were high levels of corruption in high office.
When Mangwana raised allegations of corruption among journalists, the newsmen demanded to know the whereabouts of a report on corruption at troubled steel company, Ziscosteel.