Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ethical Fitness and the Zimbabwean Media, 1999-2008

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ethical Fitness and the Zimbabwean Media, 1999-2008

Article excerpt

Introduction

In this essay, I discuss the link between ethical fitness and the media in Zimbabwe during the period 1999 to 2008 which is considered by many scholars as the darkest period of Zimbabwe's political and economic history. I charge that the political polarization that characterized the period was, to a larger extent, precipitated by the media that had totally abandoned their professional mandate of disseminating truthful, accurate, and balanced news to the readership. I divide this presentation into four distinct sections with the first section defining key concepts and setting the tone of the debate, followed by the section on the causes and nature of Zimbabwe's political polarization during the period under review.

In the third section, I outline and discuss the outcome of the political polarization which included fear and the usurping of the people's freedoms of expression, speech, and assembly. Finally, in the fourth section I suggest ways that the media can appropriate ethical principles in order to be ethically fit and fight against political polarization. I begin by highlighting the importance of ethical theory and ethical fitness in promoting peace media in the West and in Africa. I argue that only the appropriation of the ethic of community and responsibility or an ethic of hunhu or ubuntu could have saved the situation in Zimbabwe during the period under review where ZANU PF and the MDC were involved in a protracted dog fight to control Zimbabwe's political space. Please note that the MDC later split in two in 2005 following disagreements on whether or not the party should participate in the senatorial elections of that year. The larger formation became known as MDC-T with the 'T' representing Tsvangirai and the smaller formation became known as MDC-M with the 'M' representing Mutambara who become its first leader. Later on this smaller formation was led by Welshman Ncube and it assumed the name MDC-N (throughout this exercise I use the acronyms MDC and MDC-T interchangeably).

Media and Political Polarization: Definition and Characterization

In an work this, one cannot proceed to define and characterize the link between the media and political polarization in Zimbabwe before defining the word 'media' itself and deciphering the meaning of the phrase 'political polarization.' Thus, the 'media' refer to those devices through which both audio and visual messages are transmitted to the mass audience (Mangena, 2009: 94). This can be done through radio, television, newspapers, magazines, business journals, movies, technological gadgets such as smart phones and computer networks among others (Baran, 2002: 6). The word 'media' can also be used to refer to the communication industries themselves (2002: 6). There are two types of media, namely; print media which include, among others newspapers, magazines, business journals, books and pamphlets. The other type of media consists of electronic media which cover television, radio, videos, the internet, cable networks and smart phones (cf Mangena, 2009: 94).

Many years ago, only radio, television and the newspaper were the traditional media outlets but the advent of new technologies meant that the other media outlets such as computer networks and smart phones made the dissemination of news much easier and faster. Today, an event happening in New York in the last thirty or so minutes will, in no time, reach the whole world through these social media networks. This is a clear demonstration that the electronic media have become very powerful tools that also have the power to impact, positively or otherwise, the performance of the state and its security. The world over, politicians cannot survive without controlling the media, as they can be a source of political stability or disorder in the country.

To this end, the media can be a double-edged sword. In this endeavor, I attempt to show how the media have contributed to the destabilization of peace in Zimbabwe from 1999 to 2008 and what needs to be done in order to bring back the desired peace. …

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