By Edith Mugabe
In an era marked by the dominance of digital media and its influence on society, the importance of professional and ethical journalism cannot be overstated. Recognizing the pivotal role journalists play in shaping public opinion, industry experts and prominent figures are calling on Zimbabwean Journalists and Online Content Creators to be professional and ethical when reporting.
During a thought-provoking National Media Fora that was facilitated by the Zimbabwe Online Content Creators (ZOCC) in partnership with the Zimbabwe Media Commission and UNESCO, renowned journalists, media scholars, and ethical experts thoroughly discussed the current state of journalism and emphasized the need for responsible reporting. The gathering aimed to remind journalists of their pivotal role as guardians of truth and professional conduct.
The media fora highlighted the significance of accurate, unbiased, and objective reporting. Journalists were reminded of the immense power they hold in shaping public perception and the consequences that follow when ethics are compromised. The attendees underscored the need for journalists to prioritize verifying facts diligently, seeking multiple perspectives, and avoiding the sensationalization of news for mere attention-grabbing purposes.
Prominent media figures took the stage to share their experiences and insights, urging journalists to adhere to a high level of integrity and ethics in their work. They emphasized the importance of serving the public interest by providing balanced information, regardless of personal beliefs or affiliations.
ZOCC Chairperson Toneo Rutsito highlighted that journalists and online Content Creators should abide by professional ethics and continue holding on the good standards of reporting as it promotes trust between the community and the Journalists.
“As online content creators, it is our responsibility to maintain credibility, ethical standards, and professionalism in our content creation. While we strive to deliver breaking news in a timely manner, we should prioritize the principles of factual content and employ various fact-checking mechanisms. Zimbabweans rely on us as their gatekeepers of information, expecting us to provide accurate content. Therefore, it is our duty to verify information to prevent disseminating unverified, false, or sensationalized content,” he said.
He also said that major media houses have achieved their success not solely by rushing to publish first, but by consistently verifying their content and earning the trust of their audience. According to him quality should never be compromised, because spreading misinformation may generate temporary traffic but ultimately leads to a loss of credibility. Rutsito added that reputable brands prefer not to associate themselves with clickbait or unethical content creation. Engaging in such practices would hinder the progress of online Content Creators.
Rutsito urged content creators to remain committed to factual and professional practices of reporting and disseminating information to the public.
“I urge all content creators to remain committed to factual and professional practices on our journey towards media greatness. Each publication should be a step forward in achieving this goal,” he said.
During the panel discussions, the speakers delved into the challenges faced by journalists in a rapidly evolving media landscape. They acknowledged the pressures imposed by deadlines, competition, and revenue models that often compromise ethical reporting. However, it was unanimously agreed that these challenges should not be used as excuses to deviate from the fundamental principles of journalism.
Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Media Commission Professor Ruby Magosvongwe highlighted that journalists should abide by the laws of the country and the laws that guide their profession as well as reporting for the general good of the society. She added that digital media has to be accountable, ethical credible, and professional in their reporting.
“Digital media should be credible, professional, ethical and abide by the laws of the country and the laws that govern their profession and report for the general good of the society, The media’s role is to filter hate or negative speech and push for positive reporting,” said Prof Magosvongwe.
The experts underscored the significance of thorough research, robust fact-checking, and the importance of maintaining a clear distinction between opinion and news reporting. They emphasized the responsibility journalists have to provide accurate and reliable information, especially in an age of misinformation and “fake news.”
The training concluded with a unanimous call for all journalists to embrace their professional responsibility and ethical obligations. Attendees committed to upholding the values of journalism, fostering public trust, and being the guardians of honest, unbiased reporting in an increasingly complex media landscape.
As society evolves and faces unprecedented challenges, the role of journalism remains critical in providing accurate and fair information to the public.