… but urged to stop criminalisation of journalist
By Simbarashe Fenton M
The government has been applauded for its efforts to accord journalist the right to freedom of information through the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act of 2020, this came out during World Press Freedom Day commemorations in Silobela.
The World Press Freedom Day signifies freedom and access to information as a fundamental right. It is a reminder of the evolutionary movement for freedom of the press and freedom of expression in all different states across the world. This year the Zimbabwean government has been commended for its efforts in media reforms.
Addressing Kwekwe journalists and community members at the World Press Freedom Day commemorations in Silobela, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe Chapter National Chairperson Golden Maunganidze applauded the government for its efforts in reforming media laws and policies which for decades have infringed the access to information and freedom of the media.
“…it is against this background that MISA Zimbabwe, riding on the universal theme, and Zimbabwe’s ongoing media Law and reforms, found it fit and timely to commemorate this event under the theme, Information as a public good: In pursuit of Section 62 on Access to Information of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
“We therefore, note that commendable steps were taken to give effect to the enjoyment to the right to freedom of information through the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act, 2020 in place of the widely discredited Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA),” said Maunganidze.
With the rejection and condemnation of the draconian AIPPA, which statutorily robbed freedom of the media and access to information, by media and human rights institutions, the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services gave in to repel the law. The historic moment gave birth to Freedom of Information Act, Zimbabwe Media Commission Act, and Zimbabwe Media Practitioners Bill which highly give effect to co-regulation of the media in the country and with the ZMC playing the appellant role.
These reforms are there to ensure and enhance diversity, pluralism and to make sure citizens wield the right to access to information as a public good, this enables them to make well informed decisions in all aspects of their lives thus the practical aspect of democratic processes which are highly inclusive.
Representing the Parliamentary committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Ms Betty Munowenyu highlighted the importance of the World Press Freedom Day and how the committee is committed to see through all the processes as far as media laws and policing is concerned.
“In order to underline the importance of information within this new ecosystem, it is important to address current issues of media viability, platform transparency and user literacy capacity. Hence May 3 stand to affirm information as a public good and to explore what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism and to advance transparency and empowerment whilst leaving no one behind.
“As the Parliament of Zimbabwe especially as the committee that oversees the Information, Broadcasting and Media Ministry, it is our duty that we ensure that the relevant pieces of the legislation are passed by the parliament in accordance with the Windhoek Declaration,” said Munowenyu.
Award winning journalist Clayton Shereni applauded the significance of the day and the major strides in the reforming process. He however, said some of the proposed bills are repressive while also condemning the increase in harassment of journalist especially during the covid-19 lockdowns.
“First and foremost the World Press Freedom Day is a very significant day in our day to day job as journalists in Zimbabwe since the declaration 30 years ago. Every year as journalists we have been advocating for media reforms and major strides for major reforms have been made as AIPPA has been stripped off and replaced by three bills, Freedom of Information Act, Zimbabwe Media Commission Act and Zimbabwe Media Practitioners Bill.
“The reforms are coming at the right time where we call upon the government to stop criminalizing journalism as we witnessed in this covid-19 era. There have been serious crackdown on journalists…we want a free press.
“Some of the proposed bills such as the Cyber Security and data Protection bill, I see it as a very repressive law if it happens to be enacted, there will not be freedom of expression and of the media, why would the government want to monitor and control the use of internet, we should have a free internet space, a free media space…” said Shereni.
There is need for government to stop the harassment of journalist doing their jobs even during the lockdown. The increase in criminalisation of journalist in Zimbabwe shows that there is a gap that needs to be filled in terms of having a free press.