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Zimbabwe Media Experts Blast Information Ministry Ahead of Press Freedom Day

Zimbabwe joins the international community Thursday in commemorating World Press Freedom Day with very little gains on the ground in terms of press freedom.

Commemorations will be held under two themes with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai addressing one gathering sponsored by the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe chapter, and Information Minister Webster Shamu, gracing another event backed by the Zimbabwe Media Commission.

'Media Freedom Now or Never - 20 Years in Defence of Media Freedom' and the global theme: 'New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies' are the two themes.

The day comes against a backdrop of a bleak media terrain characterized by repressive legislation, slow pace in the implementation of media reforms and a shackled public media that has failed to reflect the inclusive nature of the new unity government.

Meanwhile the media community today celebrated the life of the late veteran journalist Bornwell Kidson Chakaodza, who died early this year.

Speaker after speaker lamented the state of the media landscape in the country saying the information ministry, instead of aiding the growth of independent reporting, has been a major stumbling block in efforts to unbundle the airwaves, among other issues.

Media experts called for the disbandment of the ministry. They said media in the country should be allowed to regulate itself, adding the former ZANU-PF government had failed to deliver on its press freedom promises.

Renowned journalist William Bango, who was the guest of honor at the event, said the former ruling ZANU-PF government had failed the country as a whole.

"The government ministries of information should disband and turn into repositories of public record as regulatory bodies together with their sidekicks, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Media Commission and others," said Bango. "Their performance history leave a sour taste in mouths."

Chakaodza’s widow, Emma Julie, told Studio Seven she felt honored that her late husband’s colleagues had decided to celebrate his life.

Koliwe Nyoni-Majana of the MISA-Zimbabwe said this is a time for media practitioners, civil society and the government to reflect and take stock on issues that need to be dealt with urgently in the country.

"Despite the fact that there's been highlights through out the year - which is the licensing of two commercial licenses - still media activists are clamoring for more freedom and diversity within the broadcast sector," she said.

Matthew Takaona of the Zimbabwe Media Commission said the organization, in its activities Thursday, will focus on strides taken throughout the year in trying to improve the media landscape in the country.

He said the commission had managed to give 70 new licenses to print newspapers, but had failed to institute a media council as mandated by the law, among other issues.