VMCZ and MAZ Statement on Zim Eye ‘interview’ with Defense Minister Oppah Muchinguri.
January 19, 2021
The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) and the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) notes with concern a widely circulated recorded telephone call apparently between Simba Chikanza, who runs an online platform called Zim Eye and Defense Minister Oppah Muchinguri.
In this call, which was widely circulated as an interview, Chikanza uses surreptitious methods of getting information from Muchinguri by purporting to be mourning the death of Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister, Ellen Gwaradzimba.
Gwaradzimba succumbed to Covid-19 on the 15th of January 2021.
While the VMCZ and MAZ categorically affirms that it is every citizen’s right to free expression, a right that extends to communication and practice of journalism, the manner in which this purported interview was carried out was unprofessional and unethical.
MAZ and VMCZ are proponents of media self regulation as the most democratic form of promoting ethical reportage, professional journalism and media accountability.
As part of efforts of ensuring the highest standards of journalistic ethics, the VMCZ administers a Code of Conduct that binds professional journalists.
MAZ and the VMCZ are currently spearheading consultations around the Media Practitioners Bill as part of the media law reform process to give effect to co-regulation and to ensure a binding code of conduct.
It is in light of the standards obtained in the Code of Conduct that MAZ and the VMCZ don’t condone the unethical conduct by Chikanza, which in all intents and purposes was not professional journalism.
Section 19 of the VMCZ Code of Conduct addresses surreptitious methods of gathering information wherein professional journalists should correctly identify themselves to sources and not use deception, misrepresentation, subterfuge undercover techniques in reportage.
The Code of Conduct clearly defines public interest and the rare times in which professional journalists can justifiably identify themselves otherwise.
It is evident that in the conversation between Chikanza and Muchinguri, the interviewer used surreptitious methods of getting information by manipulating the news source.
The VMCZ and MAZ strongly condemns the growing unethical means of news gathering being perpetuated by otherwise non professional journalists that are neither trained nor recognized. This conduct is largely synonymous with some online platforms that specialize on gutter journalism passed as credible news.
Professional journalists are bound by ethical standards set out in the Code of Conduct and indeed obtained in the country’s Constitution.
MAZ and VMCZ urge members of the public to be discerning and use reliable sources of information, particularly in this age of misinformation and fake news.
Authentic journalists and media organizations are accredited with the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) in terms of the law and are bound by a Code of Conduct and can be hold accountable in terms of the co-regulatory mechanism that Zimbabwean media actors have agreed in principle to conform to.
Members of the public and users of social media platforms are encouraged to respect other citizens rights to privacy, grief and other such digital rights.
The VMCZ stands ready to receive and adjudicate complaints against credible media outlets that conform to the Code of Conduct and broadly with it’s partners in MAZ united in defense of a free, ethical and professional media.
VMCZ Executive Director and MAZ Vice Chairperson
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