By ZWELETHU DLAMINI | 2017-12-17
University of Swaziland lecturer Dr Maxwell Mthembu says journalists and editors’ worst enemy is fear of those in authority, and fear of the unknown. He said this results in the media failing to execute their watchdog role, and being a voice of the voiceless in society such as people with disability. Mthembu was speaking at a media workshop on ‘Reporting on Child Protection Issues and people with disabilities.’
The workshop hosted by World Vision was held at the Happy Valley hotel on Thursday. The lecturer said as a result of fear, journalists failed to address and report matters affecting the public and to hold government accountable; especially on decisions involving reckless spending and poor investments of the public funds. He said this had a negative effect as it drained the economy and blamed journalists for the country’s fiscal crisis. “We fear the unknown, we fear those in authority; whatever challenges we face in society are there because you who have been entrusted with the responsibility of being the voice of the voiceless fear writing stories on things that affects the public. You fear writing stories that will correct what is happening; I’m not blaming you because you’re the foot soldiers but your superiors, being editors, are supposed to drive this,” he said. He decried the state of the newsrooms in the country saying the salaries were not encouraging. He said this resulted in experienced journalists leaving the profession for greener pastures.
Mthembu added that others were taking bribes and brown envelopes, which he said were eroding the trust between journalists and editors. He added that journalists lacked support for training by management. “I know for a fact that at times some of the stories are edited at the hospital hill as you write your story, by the time you put a full stop they know what you are writing. Even in the privately owned media, you find that the managing editor is the King’s correspondent and he may play position five on some stories and say we are not going to publish, those are double standards,” he said. On another note, Mthembu requested journalists to also give prominence to stories of those who are marginalised in society giving statistics of the news stories published on people with disability last year by the two dailies. He noted that children with disabilities were: vulnerable to abuse, perceived as burden by families, neglected, locked away and insulted. Mthembu said this was due to some myths surrounding children with disabilities such as that they are a curse which he said were not true. He then decried the lack of inclusive education in the country, noting that 23 per cent of people with disabilities have never been to school while 31. 7 per cent have lower primary education with less than 10 per cent receiving tertiary education. “We have a problem with access to education for people with disabilities. Mainstream schools refuse to admit pupils with disabilities.
Their arguments is that they do not have resources and expertise to facilitate educating these pupils as few schools in the country have this capacity,” he said. Mthembu said this then becomes costly for the parents to send the children to the few schools which are far from their homes and encouraged journalists to hold the ministry of education accountable for such challenges.
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