Journalists, CSOs urged to challenge laws inhibiting press freedom


Pamenus Tuso

Bulawayo—Journalists, civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizens must proactively advocate for laws that guarantee freedoms of the media, access to information and the right to free expression, delegates at a World Press Freedom Day commemoration in Bulawayo heard.

The commemoration was organised by the Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE) in conjunction with Information for Development Trust (IDT) and the US embassy in Zimbabwe.

IDT Director Tawanda Majoni

Speaking on media laws and policies at the ceremony, Tawanda Majoni, the IDT director, hailed the Zimbabwean constitution adopted in 2013 as one of the best supreme laws in Africa.

He cited sections 60, 61 and 62—relating to the freedoms of conscience, expression and the media as well as the access to information, respectively—as “beautiful” constitutional provisions that aligned with regional, continental and global conventions.

However, he bemoaned the lack of sincerity on the part of the ruling government to match these empowering constitutional provisions with enabling laws.

Media practitioners in Bulawayo on Friday commemorated the World Press Freedom Day amid concerns over government’s reluctance and insincerity in aligning media laws with the Constitution.

“If you look at the Constitution of Zimbabwe, it adequately caters for access to information and freedom of expression and the press.

“I am sure there is that universal concurrence that our constitution is a very good founding law. Unfortunately, the document is only good on paper because, when it comes to actual practice and its alignment with necessary statues, the contradiction is glaring,” said Majoni.

The IDT director said there were deliberate efforts within the ruling party and government to oppose freedom of the media, which he said depended on accompanying rights such as free expression and opinion, conscience and access to information.

Majoni said those in power were afraid of “reforming themselves out of power”, hence the resistance to provide for adequate press freedom.

“The constitution is a compromise document that was drafted during the time of the inclusive government (2009-2013). The people who are enjoying or were enjoying political incumbency were or are not comfortable with aligning laws with the noble constitution,”

Majoni described the government’s ongoing media law reform agenda as cosmetic.

The government has repealed the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and replaced it with the Freedom of Information Act, Zimbabwe Media Commission, Cyber and Data Protection of Security Act and the proposed Media Practitioners Bill.

“In recent years, we saw and we celebrated the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act. If you look at the law from a naive point of view, you will salute it 100 percent, as it purports to be giving permanent citizens and stakeholders access to information.

“However, if you read the finer print in that law, you will find out that there has been deliberate intentions and omissions to make obtaining access to information very difficult.

“The law also says every government department and agency is supposed to have an information disclosure policy but hardly any department has such a policy,” he added.

Majoni challenged ordinary Zimbabweans to challenge the status quo.

“Unfortunately, we have a problem of not challenging those things,” he said. ”The problem with us Zimbabweans is that, when we are driving and see a boulder on the road, we don’t stop to remove it. Instead, we find ways of getting round the problem.”

He urged journalists to form synergies with CSOs and citizens to identify provisions of the law that militated against a free press and use available means to fight them.

Lungile Ngwenya


“We need to build a culture to ensure that what is wrong is stopped,” Majoni later told NewsHub.

He added that some of the laws that have recently been enacted militated against press freedom, citing the Cyber and Data Protection Act that makes it difficult for journalists to use information they obtain from whistleblowers.

The IDT this year started training journalists on demanding information of public interest to ensure public offices and officers are held accountable and also as a way of removing the culture of opacity prevalent in the public sector.

Speaking at the same occasion, Bulawayo human rights defender, Khumbulani Maphosa, implored authorities to allow the media to operate without hindrance.

“The media must be given a platform to function without undue restrictions. We need to appreciate that journalists, in their day-to-day operations, do not necessarily work for their media outlets. They work for the citizens. They inform and educate the masses,” he said.

The human rights defender urged civil society to support media practitioners whenever their rights are violated.

“We need to move away from the mentality that journalists are superior beings with super powers. Despite the mammoth tasks that they execute, they are human beings. They need emotional and psycho-social support because they deal with work that is difficult and stressful,” he added.

Several CSOs have come to the rescue of journalists whenever their rights were violated and they include Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), MISA-Zimbabwe, Media Alliance and Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ).








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