We are not there yet!

HARARE - On Saturday Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in celebrating the International Press Freedom day.

Zimbabwe, once least ranked on the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, continues to make steady improvements.

The 2014 World Press Freedom Index spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists.

The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed, according to the RWB.

This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies.

Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year.

At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent.

But for many Zimbabwean journalists, the course is not yet smooth.

It is worrying that a raft of laws which were central to the harassment and arrest of journalists in the last decade remain in force. Nefarious laws such as criminal defamation are a danger to journalists and have been recently reactivated to meet convenient and selfish needs of those applying it. This is despite the fact that there is a new Constitution which binned this overly used draconian law.

While the new Constitution recognises media freedom, it appears, at least judging by the way this law has been applied, that a premium has been put to that freedom.

On Saturday, police thwarted attempts by journalists to march in Harare despite having okayed the event earlier which was organised by the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras), Media Alliance of Zimbabwe in conjunction with Unesco and the Ministry of Information.

This flies in the face of dialogue between media stakeholders and government. On the evidence of what we have seen in the last weeks where journalists have been arrested for “criminally defaming” and publishing falsehoods, we remain far from achieving a common goal.

It is our hope that gains made so far since the appointment of Jonathan Moyo to the Information, Media and Broadcasting Services ministry won’t be reversed by a recalcitrant arm within government.

That obstinacy looms large and must not be dismissed by just a wave of hand. It is up to journalists to continue fighting for their freedom despite these obstacles.

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