Media houses have to improve the welfare of journalists through “life-rewarding salaries” and decent working conditions, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has said.
In a statement to mark World Press Freedom Day, which is commemorated on May 3 every year, Minister Mutsvangwa said Government was committed to ensuring a safe working environment for media personnel.
“Reporters and journalists are the agents of searching, processing and spreading information to the general public,” she said.
“It is, therefore, important that their ability to carry out this task is not tampered with.
“They must be given the space so that they can speak truth to power.
“Safety of their working environment is very crucial.
“The threat of death or imprisonment of reporters and journalists has no place in civilised societies.
“It is also important to ensure that press workers’ welfare is improved upon through provision of decent working conditions and life-rewarding salaries.
“The Government of Zimbabwe is fully committed to the principles of press freedom and this is obtained in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.”
Government’s commitment to fulfil regional and international human rights instruments, she added, was reinforced by the Constitution.
Sections 61 and 62 of the country’s supreme law provide for freedom of the media.
Journalists, however, have to stay clear of sensationalism in their work, she added.
“On their part, journalists have to improve on the standards of the profession.
“Report in an informative and analytical way. Avoid the temptation of tabloid sensationalism, this is why my ministry with cooperating partners carried out a number of training workshops for journalists to improve on their Covid-19 reporting skills.
“Government has adopted stringent policies against the spread of false information and it is our belief that the measures put in place provide good grounds for credible journalism to thrive.”
Employers in the media sector, Minister Mutsvangwa said, have to strive to provide workers with protective clothing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This year’s World Press Freedom Day commemorations come at time when Zimbabwe and the whole world are locked in a life-and-death combat against Covid-19,” she said.
“These are trying times and Government, through the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, has been consulting widely on how best to support this sector during and beyond Covid-19.
“The media plays a critical role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Citizens depend on the media for information that empowers them to adequately respond and to implement the necessary measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“It is for this reason the Government has included journalists among the essential service providers and for them to be given the necessary support while carrying out their work.
“Government has also emphasised the need to ensure that journalists’ safety is guaranteed and that all media workers have access to protective clothing and equipment.”
Government is presently reforming the country’s media laws to ensure that media freedoms were respected in line with the Constitution.
“In pursuing Vision 2030 aptly articulated by our President, His Excellency President ED Mnangagwa, Government has been taking leadership in ensuring that it creates a conducive environment for the media sector,” she said.
Since last year, Government has sponsored three Bills that will repeal the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). One of the Bills, Freedom of Information Bill, which promotes access to information has since been passed by Parliament and awaits Presidential assent.
The other law, Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, looks at the regulation of the media and maintenance of professional standards is at the second stage of reading in Parliament.
The Protection of Personal Information/Data Protection Bill is presently in the works.
In a bid to promote access to plural and diverse media services, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has since received applications for community radios and private television stations.