…Government remains committed to media reforms: Minister Mutsvangwa
ONLINE news site Easterntimeszim was the biggest winner at the 2019-2020 National Journalism and Media Awards (NJAMAs) held last week Tuesday in Harare, after its founding editor scooped two awards.
The founding editor, Ngoni Dapira, walked away with the most awards at the ceremony after being awarded the Human Rights Reporter of the Year and the Sogie Reporter of the Year. Journalists from the country’s biggest public media oligopoly Zimpapers scooped most of the awards out of the 12 categories, but it was Dapira who stole the limelight after scooping the most awards individually at the event. The 2019-2020 NJAMAs were held under the theme, “#DECADEOFACTION: Zim Media for SDGs.’
Annually coordinated by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) in partnership with several sponsors, the NJAMAs are the biggest media awards in the country. The primary aim of the awards is to ensure and honour excellence in the media fraternity.
This year’s awards added online media to compete with the traditional print and broadcast media, of which, online journalists proved they are worthy contenders scooping some of the coveted awards. Dapira’s award winning article in the Sogie category was headlined “The sad reality of intersex people in Zimbabwe.”
The article focused on the untold story of intersexuality in Zimbabwe, concentrating on the shocking effects of the condition, especially on children. Often misconceived as homosexuals, intersex people are born with physical or biological sex characteristics, such as sexual anatomy, reproductive organs, hormonal patterns and or chromosomal patterns that do not ﬁt the typical deﬁnitions for male or female bodies. It exposed the stigma, myths and misconceptions that people born with intersexuality have to endure because of their condition, using the story of a six year old Zimunya child.
In the Human Rights awards category, his winning story was titled, “Correctional service in Zimbabwe’s prisons, myth or truth?” which was part of a series of stories that focused on the life of inmates in prison and strides being made to ensure the rights of inmates are protected. The other series of stories highlighted captivating stories of successful rehabilitation whilst another focused on re-offending by hardened criminals as well as women and juveniles in prisons in Manicaland.
This was Dapira’s first national award in his 10 years practice as a journalist. He said he honed his skills mostly as a correspondent with The Manica Post, part of Zimpapers, which has eight newspapers, magazines, radio stations and now recently added an online television network to its portfolio. This was until he decided to spread his wings to become a freelance journalist in 2017 and later established Easterntimeszim in January 2018. From humble beginnings of starting off as a blog, Easterntimeszim has grown to become a reputable online news site that focuses on developmental and human interest news in Manicaland province, with the vision of reporting ‘Real news that changes lives’ says Dapira.
“I am honoured that my hardwork to establish Easterntimeszim is paying off. My first media award that I won was in 2009 at the Zimpapers Awards where I scooped the Journalism Intern Reporter of the Year. This became my first encouragement that I was in the right profession after being selected as the best intern throughout the Zimpapers stable that year. Now, winning two NJAMAs is a big honour and great motivation on my new journey. I hope it will encourage other young journalists to never give up,” said Dapira.
The Mutare born scribe said though over the years he has been accorded many provincial awards by various organisations, the NJAMAs came in the nick of time and he hopes they will open doors for him to expand his online news site project and be able to employ other journalists in the wake of the high unemployment in the country, including the media industry which is also now flooded.
“The year 2020 has been really challenging because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has taught us to be innovative and I hope to get more opportunities to work with NGOs and communities, to tell the untold stories that change lives out there. This is the thrust of Easterntimeszim, to tell Real News, Changing Lives,” he said,
A number of dignitaries attended the ceremony, among them was the advisor, Communication and Information for UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa, Al-Amin Yusuph, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Honourable Sipho Ndlovu-Mokone, the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, Foster Dongozi, ZUJ president Michael Chideme and executive representatives from the corporate sponsors. The United Nations resident coordinator Maria Ribeiro gave the official opening remarks through virtual platform whilst the director Rural Communications Services in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Cosmus Chitauro who was standing in on behalf of Minister Monica Mutsvangwa was the guest of honour.
Chideme said they wanted to grow the event into the biggest media awards in Africa.
“We want to thank all the companies that are here, banks, newspapers and organisations that have seen it fit to sponsor the journalistic awards and made them the premier awards that they are today. So to you all, I would like to say it is good to start your preparations for the 2021 awards now,” he said.
Dongozi said the role of journalists to keep people informed is increasingly becoming important, especially in the wake of the global covid-19 pandemic. He cited the need for factual information on the pandemic and importance of reporting community oriented stories during the pandemic.
He added that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since being launched in 2015 were adopted by UN member States, Zimbabwe included, and the media has the responsibility of oversight to ensure that by 2030 all the goals will be met and funding initiatives are not abused.
In her virtual remarks, Riberio thanked journalists worldwide for their engaging and investigative stories throughout various pandemics globally that helped them in their 75 years existence of donor programming as the United Nations.
“Freedom of information is a cornerstone. Quality and truthfulness is important in media reporting. Sustainable development will be enhanced by media that upholds accurate, timely and objective reporting on development, humanitarian and social issues in Zimbabwe. The role of the media in keeping the Government, the public, UN and development partners informed on development progress on the attainment of the SDGs is very critical,” said the United Nations Zimbabwe resident coordinator.
Minister Mutsvangwa said media reforms which have come in the form of the repeal of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) remain a priority by the new dispensation Government.
“Through the new media laws, the Freedom of Information Act, which has already been enacted through our Ministry, the Protection of Personal Information Bill which is forthcoming and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill which is forthcoming again, the future of journalism in the country is bright,” she said.