HARARE – Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world yesterday in marking World Press Freedom Day, a date chosen by the United Nations in 1993 to celebrate the global community’s commitment to the value of a free and independent press.
The Zimbabwe Press fraternity said there doesn’t seem to be much to celebrate.
Misa-Zimbabwe said it is mindful of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration speech on November 24, during which he pledged to strengthen and respect the pillars of democracy.
“Regrettably, five months into his tenure, Zimbabwe is still stuck with repressive media laws such as the discredited Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and Official Secrets Act.
“Other restrictive laws include, the Public Order and Security Act, Censorship and Entertainment Controls Act (CECA), and sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act,” said Misa-Zimbabwe chairperson Golden Maunganidze.
He said this situation should also be viewed against the government’s accelerated efforts to introduce the cybercrimes laws, generally perceived as intended to curb free speech online.
Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (Maz) — an alliance of media support organisations including the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe chapter), Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum (Zinef), Gender and Media Connect (GMC), the Media Centre, the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras), the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) and the African Community Publishing Development Trust (ACPDT) — said since this year’s commemorations come at a time that Zimbabwe is scheduled to hold general elections and as advocates of citizens’ rights to access information, freedom of expression and media freedom, Maz raised concern on the slow implementation of media reforms in Zimbabwe.
“While the new administration that assumed office in November 2017 has periodically assured citizens and the international community that government is going to implement reforms, including within the media sector it is regrettable that nothing tangible has been put in place six months since the political transition.
“As such, threats against media freedom, which pose a chilling effect on citizens’ right to free expression and access to information both offline and online remain a concern on Zimbabwe’s media landscape,” said MAZ programmes manager Nigel Nyamutumbu.
He said Maz notes the various overtures by government to engage and consult on the proposed cyber legislation and review of Aippa and BSA.
“However, it is regrettable to note that government did not set timelines on when these plans are going to be implemented and there is no clear roadmap for reforming the media.
“We therefore call on the Information and Media ministry to submit legislation before the Cabinet Inter Ministerial committee spearheading the process of aligning laws with the Constitution.
Acting minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Simon Khaya Moyo said: “We are celebrating press freedom in Zimbabwe following historic events of last year which ushered in the new dispensation our country enjoys today.
“Section 61 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (number 20) Act of 2013, upholds freedom of expression and of the media specifically.
“This marks a significant turning point in the media-State relationship where government, by virtue of this constitutive act is enjoyed to ensure that the media environment is conducive for journalists, let alone the citizens of the country, to express themselves freely without let or hindrance.
“We are inviting everyone with a stake in this (media) sector to partner with the ministry, so that together, we help create an environment that offers greater opportunities for the growth of our media industry and more job opportunities for journalists.”
The Southern African Editors Forum (SAEF) said it joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day with this year’s theme: Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law.
“On this occasion, May 03, 2018, SAEF notes with dismay the continued deterioration of media freedom in some Sadc (Southern African Development Community) countries where several cases of harassment, imprisonment, surveillance, threats and arrests of journalists mainly by political players, have been witnessed,” Willie Mponda, SAEF chairperson, said.