Media urged to promote peace journalism
Kadoma (New Ziana) –Journalists should assist in creating a conducive environment for the forthcoming harmonised elections to be free and creditable through being ethical and refraining from peddling falsehoods.
Zimbabwe is set to hold elections on August 23 to choose a President, 210 Members of Parliament and 1 958 councillors.
During elections, the media plays an important role in promoting a conducive environment through ethical and conflict-sensitive reporting as well as promoting peaceful dialogue between citizens and political parties.
In some countries the media has been accused of fomenting violence before, during and after elections through misinformation, disinformation and Mal information.
Misinformation is giving out information is false, but not created with the intention of causing harm (e.g. someone posting an article containing now out of date information but not realizing it).
Disinformation is when information that is false is deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organization or country (e.g. a competitor purposely posting false statistics about another organization with an intent to discredit it).
Mal-information on the other hand is when information that is based on reality is used to inflict harm on a person, organization or country (e.g. someone using a picture of a dead child refugee (with no context) in an effort to ignite hatred of a particular ethnic group they are against.
Speaking during a Train the Trainer Programme on Reporting Elections and Peace Journalism which the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) organised, Africa University lecturer and media trainer Dr Alexander Rusero urged reporters to desist from “war journalism”
“Peace begins with journalists, peace begins with all of us, so you should desist from war journalism,” he said.
Dr Rusero cited ethnicity and tribalism as major causes of political violence and conflicts during election time.
“Peace journalism manifests when journalists deliberately make choices regarding the stories they report and the prominence they accord such stories, in ways that create opportunities for members of society to take the route of non-violence when responding to conflict such as electoral tensions,” he said.
The media trainer described journalists as the “first fire extinguishers”, gatekeepers, and solution providers.
He urged journalists to have a bias towards peace as Zimbabwe has not enjoyed relative tranquillity in 10 consecutive years since 1953.
Dr Rusero also urged reporters to guard against hate language if the country is to maintain a harmonious and peaceful environment before and after the elections.