HOW TO EDUCATE THE INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE?
This is a major question we have asked ourselves before embarking on a tricky project of documenting the current plights of the independent media in Zimbabwe. “Zimbabwe is normally sort of under the threshold of newsworthiness- more dramatic things are happening elsewhere. So Zimbabwe is not of the greatest interest”, notices one of the co-founders of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe Oskar Wermter, SJ.
In 1980, Zimbabwe stepped out of the last carriage of decolonization to only find itself with the experience of the worst inflation in the world history and repressive native leadership 30 years later. However, Zimbabwe’s plights do not drip down to the intricacies of the internal politics only. They enter into the sphere of responsibility that lies with the Zimbabwean diaspora, NGOs operating in the country and the international media outlets. The battle for the freedom of expression in Zimbabwe means more than saving one nation. Joining the effort and goodwill of multiple international actors to unlock Zimbabwean mediascape could be an exercise in depriving any other suppressive regime from the capacity to limit and harness international development.
When was the last time you heard somebody talk about Zimbabwe? If you don’t know anyone personally from Zimbabwe, there is a high probability that it was from the news and it was one of those grim narratives.
Communication across borders brings change globally. So what do independent journalists in Zimbabwe need to talk about when they address the world? Is it the official recognition from the government – something that they lack while striving to talk inside the country? What is there about the media that Zimbabwe needs in order to succeed as a part of the family of nations? This is what we are trying to discover through this film.
Operating officially here are state-run institutions only. All the other outlets are broadcasting on short wave or using the technology like web-casting, DVD- or CD-based communication as well as the good old way of spreading the news: word of mouth. “We go to the communities and educate them so that they understand the period that we are in, the transitional period. This is a very important period in Zimbabwe right now and what I think is important is knowledge. We are trying to educate, be apolitical and just give it to people as it is”, explains Sanele Njini, the English-language editor at Radio Dialogue in downtown Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe.
“The future is uncertain,” concludes Sanele. “When they signed the Global Political Agreement [in 2009] one of the specifications was that they were going to free the airwaves. All we can do is just hope that they will grant us a license. We do need to have something that speaks to us”.
As well as we, the international community, need the independent media in Zimbabwe to talk to us in an unrestrained way◄◄