Action speaks louder than words

HARARE - While addressing captains of industries in the resort town of Victoria Falls last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa pledged government’s commitment towards reviewing media regulations to allow more players in the sector.

It would be foolhardy for anyone to believe any Zanu PF government can institute media reforms and dilute its hegemony on the public media.

The previous administration of Robert Mugabe hated any manner of reform and that incorrigibility was partly behind its demise.

While Mnangagwa’s administration reluctantly talks about reforms whenever it is taken to task, there hasn’t been any internal discourse in government to demonstrate its desire to change.

A case in point is failure by his Information ministry to capture the reforms in its 100 day plan.

Zanu PF has no desire to reform for fear of losing power. If it was really serious about reforms it could have done so at the stroke of a pen.

But because there is no political will to do so due to vested parochial political interests, it will continue to talk about reforms ad-infinitum without translating its words into action.

After the 2013 general elections, the African Union Election Observation Mission made progressive recommendations that were meant to complement the media rights enshrined in Zimbabwe’s Constitution, birthed shortly before the last harmonised elections.

Five years on, the country is still to align media laws to the Constitution passed in 2013 and the public media is continuing with its highly partisan coverage of the ruling Zanu PF party to the exclusion of opposition political parties and other dissenting voices and views.

The much vaunted liberalisation of radio and television ownership has just been lip-service and obnoxious laws such as the Broadcasting Services Act and the Public Order and Security Act, which contain provisions that indisputably violate fundamental rights to privacy, freedom of expression and access to information, remain in our statute books.

Government is also still to license community radio stations and while licenses have been granted to national and regional commercial radio stations, all those that have been licensed are either owned by State-owned enterprises or those perceived as being politically connected.

Henceforth, this regime must be judged by its actions for action speaks louder than words.

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