ZMC engages Chiefs on coverage of Gukurahundi hearings

The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) is engaging the National Chiefs Council to allow journalists to cover the Gukurahundi community outreach meetings when they are rolled out in Matabeleland.

This development comes after the National Chiefs Council barred the media and security services from attending community hearings, with journalists directed to cover post-event briefings.


In an interview with CITE on the sidelines of a media stakeholders meeting in Bulawayo, ZMC Executive Secretary Godwin Phiri who chairs a seven member committee of senior journalists tasked with engaging the chiefs expressed concern that if journalists were barred from participating in the outreach process, citizens would be deprived of vital and professionally produced information.

“So, we were in an engagement process with the National Chiefs Council, to find out how we can make sure media practitioners have space to cover the process, while also taking care of the concerns that the Chiefs might have,” Phiri said.

In barring the media, Deputy President of the National Chiefs Council, Chief Fortune Charumbira, claimed journalists may publish sensitive motive information that “will cause permanent damage” to victims.

However, the ZMC executive secretary, said in their engagement with the National Chiefs Council, chiefs will be assured that journalists would cover the hearings ethically, and professionally and avoid sensationalising the process. 

“So, what we are doing here is developing a framework, which, we think, will then help to guide media professionals as they participate in the rollout. So, this is the first exercise we are doing here in Bulawayo and we are doing another one in Harare,” Phiri said.

“Ultimately, we will have some form of consensus from the media players on how they should be conducting themselves.”

Following the ZMC’s stakeholders’ engagement with the media, Phiri said the next step would be to engage the National Chiefs Council to have a common understanding when they see media in those outreach processes.

“There must be clarity on what exactly the media is doing, how they are reporting, and the chiefs must know there is confidence in the media. The media is there to serve a national purpose professionally. I think that those are the issues,” said the ZMC executive secretary.

The ZMC executive secretary said their engagements with the media and then the National Chiefs Council were part of their co-regulation framework to monitor the media’s conduct.

“We are saying we want the media itself to develop standards, and we are not imposing. We are saying the media has to develop the standards. Let’s agree on the dos and don’ts, but let’s also have a mechanism of holding each other accountable,” he said. 

“Ultimately, Zimbabweans are trying to find closure, and the media must play its role in making sure that we find closure regarding Gukurahundi. We are not opening new wounds, but we are allowing the nation, and the communities affected to find closure, and this process must be handled with utmost sensitivity and professionalism. At the end of the day, Zimbabwe must win. Zimbabwe must be able to move forward.”

ZMC is one of the five Chapter 12 Independent Commissions whose purpose is to foster a democratic society driven by respect for the Constitution, rule of law, democracy, and human rights, among other objectives. 

The commission’s main focus is on the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and the media, and the promotion of accountable governance through facilitating public access to information held by public entities for transparency, accountability, and protection of human rights. 


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