Govt under fire over ‘cosmetic’ media reforms 

Source: Govt under fire over ‘cosmetic’ media reforms – NewsDay Zimbabwe


LOCAL media groups have rejected government’s claims that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has liberalised the media landscape since coming into office.

Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa early this week said Mnangagwa had loosened the State’s grip on the airwaves. She made the remarks while presenting a paper at the Zimbabwe Defence University in Harare.

The late former President Robert Mugabe maintained a tight grip on the media, and implemented harsh media laws that were blamed for suffocating freedom of the Press.

Media lobby groups said Mnangagwa was copying from Mugabe’s script by not doing enough to open the media space, citing the newly-enacted Data Protection Act which criminalises freedom of expression.

“It is one thing to posture cosmetic changes within the media sector as opening up and yet another to assess the quality of the reforms the government alludes to,” Media Alliance of Zimbabwe co-ordinator Nigel Nyamutumbu told NewsDay Weekender.

“Government has through the Data Protection Act retained provisions that criminalise freedom of expression and by extension journalism, statutory regulation remains entrenched within the regulatory framework and the Mnangagwa administration has sustained control of State media.

“It is thus folly to claim any significant change as structurally and practically the media is all but within the same frame as it were in the old administration.”

Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe executive director Loughty Dube said government had refused media stakeholders’ recommendation on media regulations during consultations for the Data Protection Bill.

Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe chairperson Golden Maunganidze urged the government to create a media environment conducive for journalists to work and operate without fear of arrest or victimisation.

The Data Protection Act, which also has aspects relating to cybersecurity and cybercrimes, was enacted in December last year.

Misa Zimbabwe has called for the repeal or amendment of some provisions, particularly those which relate to incitement of violence and the transmission of false data messages.