The Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) recently submitted its report to Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo, with several recommendations aimed at improving media operations in Zimbabwe.
Such inquiries normally leave out issues related to the needs of people living with disabilities. But this one looks different.
The comprehensive report handed over to Professor Moyo appears to have taken into account some of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities, who use media products in various ways.
The 25-member panel of inquiry, which included editors from the print and broadcasting sectors, media trainers and artists, is expected to recommend the implementation of appropriate policies to cater for gender and disability issues.
News Editor of the Zimbabwe Independent, Dumisani Muleya, who was a member of the outreach team, says they were sensitised about disability issues when they spoke to people in various parts of the country.
He is confident that media coverage will change if the findings of the inquiry are implemented.
“What this process has done is that it has brought the issue to the fore. It has raised awareness among us so that when things of that nature come before us we are always going to be sensitive to that because we realise the broader population is very sensitive to that. So it was quite a learning curve for us as well,” says Muleya.
INCREASE DISABILITY PROGRAMS
Renowned broadcaster and Executive Director of Voice of the People, John Masuku, adds that the broadcasting sector should take note of the views of people with disabilities, as reflected in the IMPI report, if it is to have an impact on people living with disabilities.
Masuku says, “I think if people have expressed that dismay, that people with disabilities are not being covered, then the onus is on us as broadcasters to increase those programmes because the value of the report is that it is giving us the input of the people and what the people have said should be respected.”
A member of the Zimbabwe Media Commission, Chris Mhike, says it was commendable that the panel, which started its nationwide tour in April last year, took some time to interact with people living with disabilities.
He says very often, the media forgets that such people have a story to tell, just like everyone else. “IMPI was about getting people’s voices, not just experts but ordinary people in communities, and also specific interest groups including people living with disabilities. And therefore it should have been more gratifying to hear those voices coming out, particularly at the launch.”
News editor at ZiFM Stereo, Kelvin Jakachira, says IMPI has set an important yardstick on how the broadcasting sector should report on disability issues. He argues that media policy makers should ensure people with disabilities are given equal space as anyone else.
“I want to encourage those that make policies in the media to ensure that our colleagues who are living with disabilities are accorded the same opportunities as anyone else.”
Chairperson of the Tracy Nyakupinda Albino Foundation, Shingirai Nyakupinda, believes that the media should take note of the views of people with disabilities expressed during IMPI’s outreach programmes. He says such people have the right to be heard.
“It needs to engage people with disabilities more to play a certain role which can actually determine the content that will be published or aired in many circles not only pertaining to disability only but in those issues that are of national interest,” says Nyakupinda.
Media lecturer, Admire Masuku, adds that change in the way media handles disability issues will not happen overnight. He says IMPI should continue to interact with media organisations to help them appreciate some of the issues in the report.
“The powers that be that foresaw the IMPI inquiry should go a step further and try and educate those in the newsrooms and those who are in control of media in Zimbabwe to ensure that they also appreciate some of the concerns that were raised by people.”
Masuku says government should come up with a policy to ensure media schools in the country train more journalists with disabilities.
“Newsrooms, radio stations and all media practitioners should make an effort to include practitioners with disabilities in their newsrooms to promote more coverage of these issues because they will be talking from a point of experience rather than people who are just writing for the sake of writing,” he says.
Masuku further says a better society where people with disabilities live as equals can be created if the media industry and the disabled community continuously work and learn from each other.
There are high expectations that the IMPI recommendations on these and other media issues will be fully implemented to ensure every Zimbabwean has access to the media, playing a crucial role in promoting democracy, human rights and various freedoms.