Safeguarding the media sector post COVID-19 critical

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa has said there is need to safeguard the future of media sector post COVID-19. She said this in a televised address to mark the 2020 World Press Freedom Day held under theme, “Journalism without Fear or Favour”.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the media sector and there will be need to strengthen this sector to continue playing its watchdog role.

The threat and spread of the novel Corona virus, COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected our lives, and the media like any other sector is encountering numerous challenges. Government is cognizant of the threats posed on the future of the media section as a result of this global pandemic.
Minister Monica Mutsvangwa

The Minister said while some media organizations have found new ways of disseminating news, through online platforms, there is still high risk that some journalists could lose jobs owing to the declining revenue streams. She added that, “these are trying times indeed and government through the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services has been consulting widely on how best to support the sector during and beyond COVID-19”.

The Minister said the media plays a critical role in the fight against COVID-19 and citizens depend on media services for information that empowers them to adequately respond and to implement the necessary measures to contain the spread of the virus.

In his World Press Freedom Day 2020 message, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen said free and independent press is essential at all times, “but is particularly important during a health crisis such as the one we are currently experiencing”.

Through fact checking and delivery of information which has been verified, journalists are on the frontline in the fight against the distortion of truth.
Prof. Hubert Gijzen

He added that more than ever, the news must be fact-checked and verified “because disinformation spreads as fast as the virus itself”.

Prof. Gijzen further said, “we need facts to avoid spreading fear, fake news and panic, and more than ever we need a free press”.

Given the global COVID-19 pandemic, media houses have resorted to online operations with print media affected the most. Print media is technically non-existent as newspapers are being circulated online causing a decline in revenue streams, which is threatening the jobs of some journalists and newspaper vendors.

Media houses have had to cut down on operations with no clear timelines of when they will resume to normal business. The government of Zimbabwe has emphasized its commitment to supporting the media sector by allowing them to be a part of essential services and ensuring journalists are allowed to freely carry out their duties during the national lockdown.

Thabani Moyo, Media Alliance of Zimbabwe Director, highlighted the need to address media challenges that have emerged as a result of COVID-19.