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The media got me out of context: Temba Mliswa

Temba Mliswa addressing the media. Picture credit: Zimbabwe Mail

Following attacks for purportedly insinuating that he would use his parliamentarian privilege to lobby for tighter controls on journalistic practice, Norton legislator Temba Mliswa has said the media took him out of context.

“I was registering my displeasure at the way Elias Mambo, the Editor of Zim Morning Post had allowed a one-sided story in which his publication gave acres of space to Miss Susan Mutami who made serious allegations tarnishing not only my reputation but that of others including Mr. Zinyama and others.

“Why did Elias Mambo rush to publish without getting the accused’s sides of the story? Journalism should be fair, balanced and credible hence my anger,” Hon. Mliswa said.

On his part, Mambo said the burden of proof lies with the accuser.

“Mr. Mliswa was accused by his erstwhile lover. He has no reason to attack the messenger and protect the sender of that message,” Mambo argued.

Media unions and associations have sturdily castigated the ‘detestable utterances’ by Independent Norton Legislator Temba Mliswa who reportedly threatened to use his parliamentarian privilege to lobby for tighter controls on journalistic practice.

This comes after Honourable Mliswa recently addressed the media threatening to move a motion in Parliament for the amendment of laws to further curtail the operations of the media following various social media reports about his private life after an alleged fallout with his estranged lover, Susan Mutami.

At a press conference on Thursday, Hon Mliswa said, “There must be a price journalist must pay for being unethical…if a man who steals cattle is given nine years, there must also be a law that if a journalist is not factual, it must be five years.

“There must be a law that is supposed to come in and you know the ruling party has always wanted to curtail you.

“They have two thirds, I will move the motion and the bill will pass, you cannot at all get away with it.

“This must be a new era of journalism where laws are enacted to protect the innocent from journalists who are unethical, there must be a price to be paid by journalists who are unethical; a law must be there.”

Media unions and associations which represent members of the fourth estate have highlighted the central and important role the media play and therefore encouraged leaders to desist from abusing their power.

In a statement yesterday, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) president Michael Chideme said, “The union, therefore, urges leaders to always strive to rise above narrow pursuits and instead use the power of their offices to good use by championing the overall sanctity of the tenets of the Constitution for the general good of the country,” said Chideme.

The Young Journalists Association (YOJA) said the fact that Mliswa is a Member of Parliament (MP), a public official who is supposed to appreciate the value of an unhindered press makes his statement more disappointing.

“The Young Journalists Association is saddened by threats that came from legislator Temba Mliswa following unfavourable media coverage over the past weeks. Mliswa is a well-known friend of the media,” YOJA Secretary-General, Philemon Jambaya said.

YOJA added that Mliswa’s utterances come at a time when Government acknowledges the country’s hostile media environment which it is trying to fine-tune and ensure that freedom of expression prevails.

“Mliswa threatened to raise a motion in parliament that will in all essence criminalise journalism at a time we are pushing for reforms to liberate our industry.

“We hope the Norton legislator will reflect on his statement and realise the retrogressive effects it has on the democratisation process of our country, with particular focus on the central role played by the media.”

This was seconded by ZUJ as it pointed out that,” Against this background, ZUJ views Hon Mliswa’s utterances as unhelpful in the fight for media reforms which are key to a just and democratic society as underpinned by Press freedom and freedom of expression.”

The National Association of Freelance Journalists (NAFJ) said such threats have no place in any democratic society as it infringes on press freedoms especially the right to freedom of expression.

“The threats attempt to further degrade the operating environment for the media in Zimbabwe.

“NAFJ denounces any kind of abuse or threats perpetrated against journalists who are among the frontline workers in the country.The members of the media play an important role in society and therefore should be left to freely execute their duties of informing and educating the public,” said NAFJ chairperson, Lynette Manzini

NAFJ together with other ZUJ and YOJA urged Hon. Mliswa to use other available avenues to register his complaints against the media and use his position to influence laws that promote media pluralism and press freedom instead.

“In any case, there already exist complaint mechanisms to deal with justified concerns of journalistic failings in a reasonable and autonomous way, which are designed to increase media accountability and the audience’s interaction with the media,” ZUJ underscored.

However, ZUJ said it was happy to learn that Hon Mliswa has since approached the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe for redress.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende