WASHINGTON DC —
The Ministry of Information has set up a commission of enquiry into the state of the media in Zimbabwe.
The commission is made up of editors from the public and private media, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, the Media Institute of Southern Africa and other stakeholders.
Former Daily News Editor-in-Chief Geoff Nyarota has been appointed chairman.
Meanwhile, the government is being urged to prioritize the licensing of community radio stations, which activists say will go a long way towards helping vulnerable groups to articulate issues affecting them.
The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) recently launched the Gender, Media and Ethics and Professionalism Report to coincide with the end of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence which indicated that women are still being portrayed negatively by the local media.
The VMCZ study showed "that women continue to be marginalised as media practitioners, news sources and news subjects. “Conversely, a cursory glance across the media outlets in Zimbabwe shows that the men dominate in leadership and in coverage as news sources and subjects.
“When women do appear in the media, their coverage is likely to be unsavoury and unflattering mainly through sourcing patterns, story angles, and the reinforcement of stereotypes among other issues".
The report also found out that "while fair and objective reports are overwhelmed by the negative or gender neutral reports there are cases of gender aware media coverage of women and women's issues. These reports challenge stereotypes by depicting women as change agents both economically, socially and politically and as peace builders and leaders in their communities.”
In most newsrooms, the report said there is general consensus on the need to diversify sources and increase coverage of gender and women's issues.
The study findings emphasise the urgent need for increased and more balanced coverage of women as news sources and news subjects, fairer and more positive portrayal of women, a more diverse portrayal of women in the range of their roles and mainstreaming of gender into all areas of media coverage be they political, economic or social.
“The research confirmed that the coverage of gender and women's issues is skewed based on the power and gender relations within the sector. This has led to media products that perpetuate rather than interrogate disparities among women, men, boys and girls,” said the report.