By Hopewell Chin’ono
The Robert Mugabe years have damaged our national psyche and compartmentalized us into ZANU PF and MDC-T supporters creating a wedge between citizens.
This has overlapped into professions particularly journalism where practitioners have been expected to be for or against a particular political party.
Even so called intellectuals in those parties seek to perpetuate this backward practice where journalists are used to doing their party’s bidding, these spin doctors get angry if something good is said about their adversary or if their party is critiqued.
Many do this through social media bullying, leading whispering campaigns and devoting time to crude gossip in order to discredit those they consider their enemies.
My advice to journalists is not to be partisan in your reporting, you can belong to a political party of your choice but that shouldn’t stop you from criticizing it when you are doing your work as a professional.
Do not be deterred from speaking to both ZANUPF and MDCT leaders, not doing so will limit your understanding of issues at play and how the two parties relate with each other.
I am aware that some journalists are afraid of being seen talking to ZANU PF or MDC-T leaders. Many have approached me asking for advice on how to deal with it. It is a reflection of our broken past!
Journalists are not job seekers who project loyalty to Nelson Chamisa or Emmerson Mnangagwa, you are journalists.
You will lose your credibility as many have done if you become a mouth piece or newsletter for a specific political party.
It will be a great disservice to your readers and listeners if your reportage is one sided because you feel pressured not to talk to both sides.
This election campaign has been poisonous, toxic and rooted in insults. Many spin-doctors on both ends, some seeking relevance and jobs, have accentuated the culture of hate and rudeness.
Journalists should understand that it comes with the territory, you will be maligned by those who think that you are not giving them a bigger voice and space in your writings, you will be called names, but as I always say, you are not doing your work to appease political parties or their supporters.
Your job is to be ethical and loyal to your professional ethics and to disseminate information to your readers so that they are able to make informed political decisions.
Some in the opposition are not used to being critiqued because of the times they operated under during Robert Mugabe days, where all guns were pointed on Mugabe.
Some seek to bully journalists when they report on stories that put Mnangagwa in good light using mob psychological tactics, you shouldn’t buckle under such deceptive and partisan pressure because these are the same people who look sideways when their parties break the law.
They have NO moral standing to preach about any moral issues because they too are swimming in a moral maze themselves.
It is tragic that this election cycle has been reduced to petty personality name calling, elite gossip mongering and outright lies, instead of focusing on the issues and party manifestos and dissecting them in order to bring clarity to the readers.
Yes, this election cycle has been poisonous but we can still put an end to the negativity that has consumed many by simply focusing on the real issues that will affect ordinary people for the next five years.
We should accept that we all can’t see things in the same way and that we have a right to support whoever we deem fit for office and that the choice to do so is rooted in democracy.
A real democrat accepts divergent views and does not seek to bully those that don’t subscribe to his notion of political understanding.
Such bullies should be exposed because they are adding to the toxicity that we have struggled with for the past 18 years of Robert Mugabe’s rule.
I am glad that many in journalism are now seeing through the charade that many of these toxic fellows operate under.
Say NO to intimidation especially online and push back immediately when it happens!
We all have a moral responsibility to help build a better, happy and respectful nation which disagrees with each other with dignity and learns from such disagreements to make the country move forward progressively.
There are many silent voices that see reason, the loudest are not necessarily representative of who we are as a people. The media must also reflect that silent majority and not only accentuate the voices of the noisemakers.
There will be a life after the elections, bills to be paid and families to be raised.
These politicians will get together and form an inclusive government and share the spoils post election.
The spin doctors urging you to fight each other will be working for the very people they are encouraging you to hate and you will still be where you are today.
*Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning international Zimbabwean Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker. He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.
He has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind that is coming out in June. It will be launched in Harare and Johannesburg by Graca Machel.
Hopewell can be contacted at [email protected] or on twitter @daddyhope
State of Mind Trailer