Media commemorates World Press Freedom Day

HARARE - Media industry in Zimbabwe last week commemorated World Press Freedom Day, on May 3, with various organisations converging at the Harare Polytechnic where Information minister Chris Mushowe gave an address.

The gathering saw deliberations and presentations on the media landscape by various media analysts and senior journalists.

Students from the Harare Polytechnic and their lecturers attended the event.

The event was organised by Zimbabwe Editors Forum (ZINEF) in collaboration with Unesco and Media Alliance of Zimbabwe.

Zinef chairperson Dumisani Muleya, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary general Foster Dongozi, Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras) director Vivienne Marara and Daily News group editor Stanely Gama also gave presentations.

Media Institute in Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe commemorated 2017 the event with a breakfast meeting in Harare which was attended by 80 stakeholders that reinforced the need to ensure that digital rights are promoted and sufficiently protected in line with the constitution.

This follows government’s plans to enact cyber laws supposedly to curb cyber-crimes.

Representing the ministry of Information Communication Technology, guest of honour deputy minister Win Mlambo impressed upon civil society and the media to take advantage of consultative processes in order for them to submit their positions in the formulation of the proposed law.

At the same event, Misa Zimbabwe chairperson  Kumbirai Mafunda called on government to ensure the proposed law would not be used to erode citizens’ basic rights in the quest to fight cyber-crimes.

“Government should overhaul the media legislative framework to ensure that media freedom liberties granted in the constitution are a living reality. This should include formulating a cyber security framework that is in sync with national and regional principles that protect privacy of communication, private property and the right of all citizens to freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information,” said Mafunda.

During a panel discussion with representatives from three relevant parliamentary portfolio committees, chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information Communications and Courier Services MP Nelson Chamisa said promotion of digital rights should be accompanied by increasing access to the Internet for Zimbabweans.

MPs William Dhewa (chairperson of Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media Information and Broadcasting Services) and Fortune Chasi, (member of the Parliamentary Legal Committee) expressed disappointment at the slow pace with which government is realigning laws with the constitution.

Another highlight was the 2017 edition of the Bornwell Chakaodza Memorial Lecture hosted by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) as part of this year’s World Press Freedom Day commemorations.

The Annual Lecture will this year was delivered by Media Freedom activist Takura Zhangazha.

Bornwell Chakaodza Memorial lecture is named in memory of seasoned and deeply respected journalist Bornwell Cakaodza.

The memorial lecture is part of commemorations of World Press Freedom Day.

VMCZ Programme Officer, Faith Ndlovu said: “Bornwell Chakaodza Memorial Lecture is aimed at reminding everyone of the importance of professionalism and ethical conduct in the practice of journalism.

“It also places emphasis on media freedom and media self-regulation — issues that Bornwell Chakaodza ardently believed in.”

Zacras director Marara said her organisation continues to call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to urgently address the gap emanating from the absence of licensed community radio stations.

“The fact that government has not prioritised licensing of community radios is evidence that it is viewed as a peripheral issue which does not need to be urgently addressed. This unfortunately curtails citizen participation and access to information through utilising locally available platforms needed for promoting citizen driven local development.”

While in March 2015, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz licensed eight local commercial stations, Zacras said it is however worrying to note that the Information ministry permanent secretary  George Charamba, was reported in the State media as having said that government responded to calls for community broadcasting by licensing several stations, with more coming on board soon and that should “bury” the debate on community radio stations.

“Zacras is of the conviction that one can never equate a local commercial station to a community radio because the two serve different purposes. Commercial stations have a profit motive and community radio is people centred and development oriented. As such, there is still a need to license community radios.

“Zimbabwe is faced with challenges such as climate change induced disasters, poverty and various health related problems. Community radio therefore remains not only a critical tool for mobilising communities towards the generation of home grown solutions, but also a tool for promoting socio-economic and political inclusion,” Marara said.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Okay Machisa said from a human rights perspective, the media has always played a crucial role in Zimbabwe and across the world in bringing human rights violations to the attention of the general public and relevant stakeholders.

“The work of the press is important in ensuring that the danger to peace caused by human rights violations and by exclusion are curtailed, hence the need for a free operational environment for individual journalists and media houses.

“ZimRights therefore calls for an end to the physical harassment of journalists through arrests and detentions, intimidation through unfavourable labelling, or any other hindrance that might limit the ability of the press to function effectively.”

He urged the media to advance peaceful and inclusive societies, hence its has duty to act as the impartial watchdog of society by reporting the facts without fear or favour.

“It is worrying that the Zimbabwe media spectrum continues to be limited by the failure by the authorities to licence more players especially in the broadcasting subsector, depriving the country of diversity and plurality of information channels. This lack of plurality has basically curtailed the citizens in their human rights in Section 61 of the Constitution.”

Machisa called upon the government to align laws, including those relevant to media freedom and free expression, with the Constitution.  “That the majority of notable old laws have not been aligned with the Constitution for four years is a travesty of justice and great cause for concern.”

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