By Simbarashe Sithole
Journalists have been urged to prioritise stories on transitional justice to ensure sustainable peace in the country.
Making a presentation during a seminar on the role of the media in transitional justice organised by the National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) in Harare today, the Nomphilo Simanje, the Legal and ICT policy officer for the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe Chapter said clumsy reporting can polarise and plunge the country into chaos.
“The media by the powers vested in them through law and social contract can make or break a nation,” Simanje said.
“Media can foster democracy or stifle it, skewed reporting leads to polarity and threatens national peace.”
To ensure peace, Simanje said, journalists should report fairly and accurately, always affording fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions whilst avoiding promotion of violence or hatred against any class of persons.
NTJWG vice-chairperson Dzikamai Bere said justice will be achieved in Zimbabwe only when transitional justice becomes a movement, as reflected by various transitional justice stakeholders at Transitional Justice Symposium convened by the NTJWG in 2018.
He lamented the lack of excitement by journalists in reporting transitional justice issues.
“Since the NTJWG and other transitional justice stakeholders have made several interventions and scored various impressive successes, these remain underreported by media outlets,” Bere said.
“Whilst the ability to achieve tangible results is important, efforts to inform the nation in ways that suit the different audiences provide opportunities and space for the public to influence initiatives.”
He added: “Given the central role that the media plays in keeping citizens informed and shaping public opinion, it is fundamental that the media actively participate in informing the public of those endeavours promoted by the NTJWG and other transitional justice stakeholders.
“The media cannot be a passive agent that replicates reports and comments made by other players. Instead, it should take a proactive approach towards exerting peace journalism in its reporting, as it has the power that can impact public discourse and distribute knowledge.”
NTJWG advisor Kevin Toro Sánchez describes what transitional justice is and its importance in achieving longtime peace.
Fortune Kuhudzehwe, the NTJWG coordinator implored journalists to understand the scope of transitional justice, which is often embedded in political stories, adding, that wide coverage of the issues will ensure wide access to justice and enduring peace.
Journalists expressed concern over CSOs’ failure to include them in programming so that they have a thorough understanding of transitional justice and report about the issues quite often and accurately.