In any democratic society, the media play a vital role in shaping and reflecting public opinion. From the early days of civilisation, the media have been the locomotive by which human progress has sailed.
Nationalism being the patriarch of nation states, nation- building has found its matriarch in the media.
Now the media are powerful enough to challenge the pillars of nationhood.
According to British politician Edmund Burke, the media have acquired the status of “fourth estate” of the realm.
The historical episodes that gave birth to Zimbabwe were heavily influenced by the media.
Fortune seekers and adventurers who pioneered colonialism in Zimbabwe were spurred by newspaper advertisements in Europe that trumpeted support for the scramble for Africa.
Rhodesia was very media sensitive.
Between 1960 and 1979, the Rhodesian government saw to it that open repression was the order of the day.
Publications like The African Daily News, the Catholic Magazine Moto, and The Zimbabwe Observer were banned for accommodating black political and social views.
The media that remained were owned by the British and South Africans, whose ultimate agenda was to sustain colonial repression and apartheid.
Radio and television were heavily monopolised by the state. “Padare” was one of the infamous radio programmes eulogising the genocidal bombardment of refugee camps in the Frontline states.
The Rhodesian establishment would have been successful in their heinous bid to throttle the voice of freedom had nationalists not started broadcasting from outside the borders.
The Voice of Zimbabwe, broadcast by Radio Mocambique, inspired multitudes in Zimbabwe to ford rivers and mountains to join others in training camps in neighbouring countries.
Liberation war songs and slogans fired up those who remained to become mujibhas and chimbwidos.
Such was the role of the media in the making of an Independent Zimbabwe.
Former Cuban president, Cde Fidel Castro Ruz, once articulated the significance of the media in the island’s liberation struggle: “Much more valuable than the rural recruits for our guerilla force were American media recruits to export our propaganda.”
So one may ask: if the media were so valuable in the making of Zimbabwe and Cuba, why then can’t they promote progress in today?
The answer is clear and the people must bear this in mind: the media can be as constructive as they are destructive.
According to Indian commentator Siddartha Dash, “Nowadays media (have) become so powerful that (they are) in a position to make or break governments.”
Though the media can serve as a bridge between governments and people, they have also been used to destabilize States and subvert national interests.
Technological advancements mean multitudes can be reached quickly.
Today, the media can be the fulcrum of a new holocaust that destroys the concept of sovereignty in the developing world.
At a February 18, 2015 roundtable discussion, the US state department explored use of social media to proliferate American foreign policy objectives at a personal level.
Their target was to reach grassroots communities in sovereign nations so as to be able to get those people to support American objectives in their own countries.
Macon Phillips, co-ordinator of the state department’s bureau of international programmes called it “empowering regular people in their own society to effect the change they want to see”.
Evan Ryan, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, concurred with Phillips on the need to use social media to foment dissent.
Thus, for any country to develop, it must have an effective state media.
In 2013 President Vladmir Putin articulated this thus: “Whoever owns the media controls what it says. There should be patriotically minded people at the head of state information resources.”
We should be locked in a constant struggle to build media that uphold the collective values of their nations.
In many instances, the media have been useful in exposing corrupt practices, thus saving nations millions of dollars.
But there are many cases where the media have accentuated destruction of nations.
World opinion was misled by Western media to believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was demolished.
Brother Leader Muammar Gaddafi’s demise was precipitated by a concerted media campaign. Libya is still burning.
In Zimbabwe, pliant media are at the forefront of seeking to dismantle the country’s sovereignty.
Voice of America’s Studio 7 continually tries to subvert the legitimate Government of Zimbabwe.
The private media’s strident spin daily throws brickbats at President Mugabe and his Government.
Press freedom in Zimbabwe is a Zanu-PF legacy, and it is unfortunate that this same freedom is now abused to attack land reforms, indigenisation and empowerment and any progressive idea Government puts forth.
Nations that have developed have done so on the back of forward-looking media.
The US is a good example.
The American media are highly patriotic, from the newsroom to the cinema.
They put their flag first and eschew anything that challenges their national interest. Not so in Zimbabwe.
It is the media that must embellish the nation with colours of hope and not despair.
Zimbabweans should painstakingly defend their heritage.
If we speak with one voice victory is certain.
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