Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Zanu PF government's conduct is smuggling 'outrage porn' into the public sphere.

06 Aug 2020 at 07:58hrs | Views
As the Covidgate scandal remain unresolved, can it be fair to attack journalists and the media for spreading "panic porn" as is being peddled by Emerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF?

Are we in the media, in our reporting of the corruption and the mismanagement associated with the second republic indeed guilty of outraging the public? And are journalists' knowledge of intricate facts and statistics to report on and interpret all the manifestations of the corruption good enough?

Over the past months, Zanu PF has been complaining that the way the media unearthed the Covid 19 tender scams were creating unnecessary mistrust between the governors and the governed. This in turn has led to outrage which is diminishing the goodwill that the regime enjoyed.

The Covid 19 tender corruption scandals involving companies related to the first family,Drax International and Jaji Investments have been the point of departure for the second republic and the media. Zanu PF clearly mishandled the scandals and through its henchmen it decided to attack the media for exposing it. Chinamasa leading the chorus threatening journalists.

According to Chinamasa they are angry at the Media and the way the Media has covered this issue.

He referred as being akin to 'Panic Porn'.

What he failed to address is the role of the government in handling crisis situations. It is saddening that Nick Mangwana the public relations front officer has failed to live up to expectations as the public relations manager of the government. In situations of crisis he has failed to approach issues with required stillness and sober mind. Instead their response has been to attack journalists and media and not to avert the crisis.

Build up to July 31 Zanu PF laid blame on journalists and media for galvanizing people to take to the streets.

Whether the protests were successful or not such a debate is not worthy because the regime has by and large demonstrated that it is impervious to responding to protests. They ignore and many cases squash them. They think citizens are too timid to ask for anything. The regime thinks those who protest against corruption,unemployment and general decay in the country can only do so when sponsored by the West. Zimbabweans do not have issues unless the West tells them and sponsor them to parrot them.

The government simply does not want criticism. It does not want to be checked. Im any case maybe this government need to heed to MDC Alliance Vice President Tendai Biti's advice to "Deal With #31July Protest Message Not Attack Organisers".

The media and journalists will respond to their call for duty. Its their vocation. The government also need to wake up and deal with issues in a sober way. Using is apparatus to positively respond to its citizens, building bridges and uphold the social contract.

According to Malcolm Gladwell in David and Goliath,"...people accept authority when they see that it treats everyone equally,when it is possible to speak up and be heard and when they are rules in place that assure them that tomorrow you won't be treated radically from how you are being treated today".

Legitimacy is based on voice,fairness and predictability.The Zimbabwean government has demonstrated that in as much as they grumble about the media spreading "outrage porn" against it,it doesn't by any measure attempts to meet the standard markers of legitimacy.

Media has a paramount role to play in the society,according to Professor Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease journalists should wake up, "it is already tomorrow".

According to Osterholm journalists are not asking critical questions to politicians. He said he did not know of any media organisation in the world which had anything but a very superficial plan of how to cover future crisises. He said that the large majority never think about it and that not planning ahead is like buying a 40-foot (12m) rope to save a person drowning 60 feet (18m) away.

He however gave guidelines to journalists reporting on crisises especially when dealing with regimes that does respond to issues with rationality. He suggested,"the problem isn't outrage; the problem is denial … a communication task in which the media can be very helpful",

When you frighten people, it's temporary; you can't sustain fear. There is an adjustment reaction phenomenon and then people revert to the normal".

Denial is nature's way of protecting us from the horrible effects of panic and, whereas panic is rare, denial is extremely common.

We need conscious effort on the part of the sources and — insofar as journalists are willing to make conscious efforts — we need a conscious effort on the part of journalists to protect people from denial by seducing them out of denial.

Is the criticism of Chin'ono and media by Zanu PF and its goons who are alleging that journalists are scaremongering through their reporting on Covidgate scandal valid in any case?

I could not find any evidence that Chin'ono was creating fear and panic in its reporting on corruption around tenders for Covid-19 equipment as Zanu PF alleged. The media endeavour to be messengers of the truth, however ghastly that truth may be. Again, should Chin'ono keep quiet about the dangers of corruption merely not to create panic and fear in society? We are here to report the news accurately and truthfully, as the Press Code requires.

A quality journalist or news organisation cannot withhold the facts from the public.

As a citizen, I have the duty to take care of myself, be informed, and evaluate the information given by journalists through the media.

Unfortunately, many people drown in politics of bootlicking would rather believe those misleading, often dangerous absurdities.

In The Demon-haunted World – Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan, astronomer and lucid communicator of science, summarised this choice very well: "... at the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes – an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive, and the most ruthlessly sceptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense" (my emphasis).

It does not help if the messengers, the media, are blamed as the culprits when people do not arm themselves with reliable information.

Politicians in many cases do not put each other to task,they say what goes around comes. We have seen it with Themba Mliswa who speaks audibly against corruption yet he is sucked in some scandals.

The media have reported widely on this, but were ignored by politicians and public officials. Unfortunately, where the media failed – and are still failing – is by, in the name of balance, giving a platform to denialists.

If the media can do one thing right in this terrible endemic corruption, it is to get rid of the notion that reporting needs a right of reply from denialists and party loyalists

Unfortunately this has not been the case journalists and the media that dare to expose the rot are labelled. Called names. And are said to be puppets of unfriendly states.

As Sandman emphasised, the problem is not panic, the problem is denial.

The media have a duty, as Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission do, to winnow deep truth about accountability from deep corruption.

According to Dambudzo Marechera in his 1984 postscript of the House of Hunger "I think writers are usually recruited into a revolutionary movement before that revolution gains whatever it's seeking. Once it has achieved that, writers are simply discarded, either as a nuisance or as totally irrelevant. I don't know that the writer can offer the emerging nation anything. But I think there must always be a healthy tension between a writer and his nation. Writing can always turn into cheap propaganda. As long as he is serious, the writer must be free to criticise or write about anything in society which he feels is going against the grain of the nation's aspirations. When Smith was ruling us here, we had to oppose him all the time as writers – so, even more, should we now that we have a majority government. We should be even more vigilant about our own mistakes.

As soon as one talks about a writer's role in society, before you know where you are, you are already into censorship. Most writers in Africa, I suppose in most Third World countries, are usually seen to be in conflict with governments. So much so that governments in Africa tend to automatically suspect a writer of not being loyal. The idea that a writer should always be positive, that's always being crammed down one's throat. A writer is part of society; a writer notices what is going on around him, sees the poverty every day. How can you whitewash poverty."

To me this is Hopewell Chin'ono, and he cannot breath.

"The best of prophets of the future is the past," wrote the English poet Lord Byron in a letter to a friend in 1821.

Feedback on

Source - Taruberekera Masara in Pretoria
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

Get latest news by email: