Zimbabwean journalists see no government will to scrap repressive media laws


Staff Reporter

HARARE – The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe this week deplored government’s lackadaisical approach towards reforming the country’s repressive media laws, despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s public admission that the statutes did not meet democratic standards.

Already working in a politically volatile environment, Zimbabwean media practitioners have for more than a decade been forced to operate under obnoxious media laws that include the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Order and Security Act – both enacted in 2002.

The two pieces of legislation have been key in the suppression of information, as the ruling Zanu (PF) has used them to arrest and torture incisive journalists, some of who have been hounded out of the country for their work.

MAZ representative Nigel Nyamutumbu told journalists in Harare – hard on the heels of their meeting with the inter-ministerial committee on reforms, that the changes were long overdue.

“Media reforms in Zimbabwe are long overdue. The media law and policy reform processes are not moving fast enough,” said Mr Nyamutumbu.

“MAZ partners are therefore deeply heartened by the fact that President Mnangagwa recognised upon assumption of power in November 2017 and again in September last year, that Zimbabwean laws relating to media freedom and freedom of expression largely do not meet constitutionally and internationally entrenched democratic standards.”

The alliance said despite assurances from government officials and convening at various meetings, it was still not convinced.

“To our delight, the President’s lieutenants including Minister of Information and her deputy, as well as the permanent secretary have all echoed the media reform chorus in recent months. But words are not enough. Regrettably despite the institution of all these measures, MAZ remains acutely dissatisfied with the pace of the ongoing reforms.”

Despite all these delays MAZ called for an urgent replacement of laws that infringed on freedom.

“All laws that negatively impact on freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information must be repealed urgently. Government must immediately take all measures to bring about diversity in the media,” added the organisation.

“The Zimbabwe broadcasting corporation (ZBC) must immediately be transformed into a truly public broadcaster, and monopolies in the broadcasting sector must be neutralised through legislative and policy interventions.”

Loughty Dube, director of the Voluntary Media Council, said AIPPA should be repealed.

“The media should be allowed to practice self-regulation and new statutes must recognise existing self-regulatory measures. All laws that impinge on media freedom must either be repealed or extensively amended,” said Mr Dube

Zimbabwe is one of the countries with highly oppressive media laws which infringe on journalists’ rights to freely execute their work.

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