BY SHARON BUWERIMWE
LEGAL think-tank, Veritas has said the safety of journalists will be under a threat if the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Bill is passed into law in its current state as the country heads towards elections in 2023.
The Bill is currently before the National Assembly and has been criticised for clauses that shrink the democratic space, including controlling the operations of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Speaking at a media workshop organised by Veritas Zimbabwe, the think-tank’s Brian Crozier said the Bill would negatively impact the work of journalists.
“Journalists are also going to be negatively affected by this Bill. I’m saying this because organisations that represent journalists would have been banned if the PVOs Bill was passed in its current form. For instance, organisations like MISA [Media Institute of Southern Africa] and ZUJ [Zimbabwe Union of Journalists],” he said.
“As we are approaching elections time, there will be abuse and arrests of journalists, who will rescue them? So journalists should understand this Bill and spread the message of effects.”
Crozier also challenged media practitioners to study and understand provisions of the Bill in order to effectively communicate its implications on communities.
The Bill will effectively criminalise the operations of civic society organisations (CSOs) as it proposes harsh penalties, including closure of the organisations and jail terms of up to a year for breaches.
Early this week, CSOs issued a statement claiming that Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi tricked them into believing that their submissions to the Bill would be considered in Parliament.
Some of the contentious clauses include provisions that stipulate compulsory registration of NGOs and ministerial powers to interfere with their governance structures and criminalisation of “political support” and the “harsh” criminal penalties to be imposed on errant CSOs.
However, the ruling Zanu PF party has said the PVOs Bill was long overdue to curtail operations on the CSOs it accuses of pushing a “regime change” agenda.