'Zim media should be free'

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s media should be allowed space to expose societal imperfections, Zanu PF member Goodison Nguni said yesterday.

Nguni was speaking at a discussion hosted by the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the Daily News, titled Media, Democracy and Elections.

The event was part of the group’s second anniversary commemorations.

“I do not believe in regulation and I tell colleagues in Zanu PF that we should engage the private media. We must tell the so-called independent media that where we erred we were wrong and want to correct the situation.

“Media play a role that can be used or abused but I must say we should be careful how we use it,” Nguni said.

He said Zimbabweans must move from ascribing labels to media professionals and houses but urged journalists to come out in the open and declare their ideological interests.

“I would like a situation where a media house can declare that they are in support of this or that party before an election as happens in the West.

“However, their reportage should not be biased, journalists should maintain some semblance of balance,” said Nguni.

Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe executive director Takura Zhangazha said there has not been significant progress legally in terms of press freedom since the formation of the coalition government four years ago.

“They seem to believe that the more the merrier without looking at the quality. The government gives media practitioners 25 percent and take away 75 percent and this stems from the fact that we have treated media freedom as a privilege.

“The fact that we have more than four regulatory bodies, including the police, when it comes to elections keeping an eye on journalism practitioners shows the contemptuous and paternalistic attitude the government has towards press freedom,” Zhangazha said.

He said the new draft constitution crafted by a committee of Parliament and passed by the majority of Zimbabweans in a referendum last month retained clauses that are inimical to press freedom.

“We have been told to celebrate incremental gains when Section 86 of the new charter does not recognise press freedom and this means the ability of citizens to enjoy free expression has severe limitations,” he said.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network research and advocacy programmes manager Runyararo Munetsi urged the media to report on elections comprehensively.

“Media should raise awareness for marginalised groups such as the youth and women as well as make sure that they are present at all levels from national command centres to wards,” Munetsi said.

The discussion was attended by representatives from a broad spectrum and ANZ directors.

ANZ director Dereck Smail said the media should exercise its right to free expression but with responsibility.

“We had an Editorial Charter in 1998 when we mooted the idea of establishing the Daily News and it remains as important now as it was then. We will tell it like it is but I must emphasise that need for responsibility. ANZ is not a member of any political party and do not wish to be one.

“We are only against corruption, rape, violence and the loose morals as displayed by some of our politicians,” said Smail.

The Daily News and its sister publications were forcibly shut in 2003 by the government under the harsh Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).

The publications were granted a licence in 2011.

Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya said media laws like Aippa the Public Order and Security Act among others remained an “aberration” to press freedom. - Richard Chidza and Gugulethu Nyazema

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