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Zimbabwe Minister Calls for Media Reforms Ahead of Polls

  • Gibbs Dube

Zimbabwe joined the world Friday in marking World Press Freedom Day with Deputy Information Minister, Murisi Zwizwai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, calling for media reforms in the country, in particular the restructuring of the national broadcaster and the licensing of community radio stations.

Mr. Zwizwai, who was guest of honour at the commemorations at Africa Unity Square, said the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation must be restructured to restore its national broadcaster status.

The deputy minister also said the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) is the number one enemy of press freedom in Zimbabwe and has no space in a modern, civilized and democratic state.

World Press Freedom Day was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1993 as an outgrowth of a seminar on promoting an independent and pluralistic African press. The seminar took place in Namibia in 1991 and led to the adoption of the Windhoek declaration on promoting independent and pluralistic media.

Meanwhile in New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has written Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairperson of the African Union, urging her to uphold press freedom by calling for justice in journalist murders in Africa and for the release of all imprisoned journalists.

At least 41 African journalists, the media watchdog group says, will spend World Press Freedom Day imprisoned in direct reprisal for their work. The CPJ says in the letter it is particularly disturbing that Ethiopia and the Gambia, which host offices of the AU, are among the nations holding journalists in jail.

These imprisonments have silenced important voices, often in contravention of regional and international rulings, said the CPJ.

In Washington, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) announced this year its lifetime achievement award goes to Edna Machirori, Zimbabwe’s first black female newspaper editor.

As a woman journalist in post-colonial Zimbabwe, Machirori rose through the ranks of several newspapers, including the Chronicle and the Financial Gazette, in spite of a deeply patriarchal culture. Now, Machirori continues to write about development, corruption and social issues for the Daily News, among other publications.

As the world celebrates Press Freedom Day, some Zimbabweans feel that they are not free to express their opinions in the media, including on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

They claim that some Zimbabweans have been victimized by the Zanu PF arm of the unity government whenever they expressed views regarded as against President Robert Mmugabe and his party.

Pastor Moses Bafana of Twelve Apostolic Faith Church said most Zimbabweans are not free to say anything opposed to Zanu PF and the government.

Botswana-based Zimbabwean, Donald Sorojena agreed, noting one is free to say anything in Zimbabwe but not free afterwards.