There is nothing more comforting than to see scores of young students of journalism getting together in a powerful show of strength, debunking the many obituaries of unions made by media employers.
Over 120 student members of the National Union of Journalists in the UK assembled at a conference in London last Saturday, a living proof that our unions are in good stead and the next generation of journalists is in the making, ready to defend their rights and the principles of journalism.
I was invited to speak to the students along with top-flight reporters from major UK dailies who gave the students tips on how to get into the media and how to build their skills. They also heard from seasoned investigative journalists who gave them a glimpse of watchdog journalism.
The students gave a special welcome to the international platform where I spoke. Cameroonian journalist Charles Atangana updated them about his battle against deportation back to the Cameroon and the support he is receiving from the NUJ and fellow journalists, and how his life changed just because he was doing his job as a journalist. Foster Dongozi, General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, and Jennifer Dube, a reporter at The Standard in Harare, freshly arrived from Zimbabwe, gave a harrowing description of the life of journalists, working under some of the most dangerous conditions in the world.
They described how, despite a lull at the time of the setting up of the coalition government and many promises made to turn over a new leaf on six years of intimidation and stifling of independent journalists, attacks against journalists in Zimbabwe have again flared up in recent weeks with a series of hostile incidents against journalists, including the arrests and harassment of Nkosana Dlamini and Anderson Manyere, both freelance journalists, and the beating up of another freelance journalist, Sydney Saize, in Mutare. Only a week ago the ZUJ president Dumisani Sibanda was arrested and detained, after he wrote a story in The Standard involving the police force.
The ZUJ delegation is touring newsrooms and will be hosted by NUJ colleagues in Scotland and Ireland to explain the recent developments to journalists, human rights and press freedom activists as well as politicians.