By Staff Reporter
MEDIA and rights based groups have urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to follow through on his pledges to return the country back on its democratic path through scrapping repressive media laws and freeing the country’s broadcasting industry from Zanu PF control.
In two separate statements to mark World Press Freedom Day, MISA Zimbabwe and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) urged government to honour the rights of journalists especially as the country nears general elections as well as to free the airwaves.
“…MISA Zimbabwe is mindful of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration speech in November last year during which he pledged to strengthen and respect the pillars of democracy,” said the media group.
“Regrettably, five months into his tenure, Zimbabwe is still stuck with repressive media laws such as the discredited Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and Official Secrets Act (OSA).
“Other restrictive laws include, the Public Order and Security Act, Censorship and Entertainment Controls Act (CECA), and sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. This situation should also be viewed against the government’s accelerated efforts to introduce the cybercrimes laws, generally perceived as intended to curb free speech online.
“These laws essentially curtail citizens’ rights to freedom of assembly and association, demonstrate and petition, including the right to freedom of conscience, as provided for by Sections 58, 59 and 60 of the Constitution. As well as Sections 61 and 62 which protect the right to free expression, media freedom and access to information.”
MISA condemned the Zanu PF led government for tendency to “dither and prevaricate” in efforts to abide by constitutional provisions which guarantee the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and privacy.
The media group urged the licensing of community radio stations.
Similarly, CiZC called on government and the State “to ensure protection of media practitioners in the course of their duties especially as the country heads towards the 2018 watershed elections”.
“It has to be noted that Zimbabwe has a history of persecution of journalists especially from the private media and this unfortunate trend must come to an end if the commitment by the ‘new dispensation’ to uphold the constitution is anything to go by.
“The role of the media in ensuring that the upcoming elections are free, fair and credible cannot be overemphasized hence the need to promote a free and conducive working environment for the media,” said the NGO umbrella group.
The theme for this year’s press freedom commemorations is “Keeping Power in Check: Media Justice and the Rule of Law”.