I’ve spent a couple of days this week at the Highway Africa Conference in Grahamstown, South Africa in the company of journalists encompassing old and new media, some formally trained, many untrained – bloggers, vloggers, editors and so on.
Not infrequently Zimbabwe was used as the extreme example of a place where things don’t work, of state interference in the media, of a people abused. And if not referenced in that manner, we were the brunt of the joke.
Notably none of these references mocked or denigrated Zimbabwe’s journalists. That in itself is informative – as if you don’t kick a people when they’re on their knees. For certainly Zimbabwean journalists, formally trained and amateur bloggers alike are deserving of constructive criticism. Exaggeration, opinion, slander, conjecture, rumour mongering and propaganda are frequently offered up as news and information. Partisan polarization has left little middle ground.
The increasing use of anonymity by Zimbabwe’s writers to protect the identity of the commentator is a worryingly negative trend. Some might say that this as a measure of our dictator’s influence. I suggest that it is a measure of our lack of commitment to stand up for what is rightfully ours – the right to communicate.