Commissioners of the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) say media practitioners and other stakeholders must continue to push the government to implement its findings, including repealing or amending restrictive media laws.
The calls comes hard-on-the-heels of widely criticized comments by information permanent secretary George Charamba threatening to muzzle the independent media by tightening media laws in the country.
Speaking at a meeting with journalists and other stakeholders at the Bulawayo Press Club Tuesday evening, Jackie Chikakano, one of the commissioners, said the fact that the commission’s report has been made public, gives interested parties an opportunity to compel the government to act.
Chikakano, who is also a legal advisor with the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), was responding to concerns raised by some of the participants at the meeting that the government may choose not to implement recommendations contained in the report.
She said despite the fact that IMPI’s terms of reference were only limited to gathering information from the public and producing a report, without going further to deal with how recommendations would be implemented, journalists should not sit on their laurels but continue to work with other stakeholders, in pushing the government to guarantee that the recommendations are put in place.
Chikakano said, “There are different platforms that are available to us, and I suppose at this juncture we might not be able to say which one is the best, but definitely the opportunities are there. The fact that they made this a public document gives us leverage.
“If we had finished this process and they had hidden this report in their offices, then it would have been a very different story. We would be doing guesswork and they could be telling us different stories about the findings. But the fact that is now public, it now gives us leverage to demand what it is that we want to demand as far as the report is concerned.”
STATE OF MEDIA
The report was produced following the findings of a 28-member panel, which was appointed in December 2013 by the then Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, to look into the state of media in Zimbabwe.
Urging the media to publicise the report as much as possible, Chikakano said part of the findings reveal that Zimbabwe lags behind most countries in the Southern African Development Community region in terms of freedom of expression and access to information, a view shared by Brian Mangwende, another IMPI panelist, who also attended the meeting.
Mangwende said, “We are falling far behind in terms of media freedom that we need to have in this country in order to have a free society, as people who can express themselves without fear or favour.
We have a long way to go and we need to make strides; the recommendations are there on how we should do it and why we should do it.”
AIPPA AND POSA
Programmes officer Tabani Moyo of MISA-Zimbabwe told Studio 7 that most of the findings and recommendations of the report vindicate his organization’s consistent call for the repeal of laws like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Criminal Reform and Codification Law (Codification and Reform) Act as such laws both curtail and criminalise freedom of expression.
Moyo said, “This report is one of the scientific processes or tools that have authenticated the many decades’ work of advocacy that we have been carrying out insisting firstly that the laws that are governing Zimbabwe are archaic, they don’t belong to the 21st century, and secondly insisting that their repeal should be immediate rather than be deferred.
“We are insisting that this report is one of the progressive tools that have come out of post-independence enquiries.”
On Tuesday MISA held a meeting with Charamba as a result of perceptions that he wants to bloc public discussions on the over 600-page IMPI report, following reports in the state media.
Charamba has promised to convene an all-stakeholders meeting to discuss the report paving the way for the implementation of its recommendations.