Webster Shamu who was represented by a Senior Press Officer in the ministry of Media Information and Publicity Mr Alexio Kazingizi at an occasion to mark World Press Freedom Day held in Harare, told journalists and other stakeholders that the meeting in Kariba this week seeks to lay a firm foundation that will inform the drafting of a new constitution.
Shamu said the Kariba Indaba is designed to tackle concerns in the media over what the industry describe as short falls of full protection for press freedom in the Constitution.
“….we are required as an industry to hold a policy review conference or “indaba” during which we will throw the spotlight on the whole industry, warts and all”, he said.
“We are set to gather to shape a framework which in turn will shape a whole industry whose prime business is realizing a basic human right”, added Shamu.
In their remarks to mark World Press Freedom Day, journalists urged the government and the public to open up and address the concerns of media practitioners.
Celebrated on the 3rd of May every year the World Press Freedom Day was set aside by the United Nations for the world to reflect on the activities of the media industry across nations.
This year’s celebration being held over two days is running under the theme “Media reforms, Reconstruction and Responsibility.”
Zimbabwean journalists commemorated World Press Freedom Day under a hostile media environment which throughout the year has seen several journalists harassed, tortured, intimidated, imprisoned and in some cases abducted and killed.
Media Institute of Southern Africa Misa-Zimbabwe said in a statement that this year’s theme, Info-powered for media freedom and access to information in a new constitution, called upon the government, parliament, civic society and members of the public to act in unison in order to arrive at a new democratic constitution for Zimbabwe that guaranteed press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information.
It also urged Parliament of Zimbabwe to repeal the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Public Order and Security Act (POSA), Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), and the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act as these laws served to undermine a free press, expression and access to information.
‘The continued delay in the introduction of new media players as well as the continued ban on previously operational private newspapers through the retention of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Broadcasting Services Act, the Public Order and Security Act as well as the Criminal codification and Reform Act are indicative of the urgent need for holistic democratic media law reform," it said.
"MISA Zimbabwe joins the people of Zimbabwe and members of the media fraternity in commemorating World Press Freedom Day. This year’s World Press Freedom Day occurs in a context that is influenced by the written assertion of a commitment to freedom of expression and media diversity in Article 19 of the Global Political Agreement. It also occurs within a context within which once again MISA Zimbabwe has to call for the cessation of the harassment, arrest, detention and torture of journalists as well as media professionals."
It said the warrant of arrest issued for freelance journalist, Shadreck Andrison Manyere who had been released on bail on April 17 as well as the criminal defamation charges levelled against the editor of The Chronicle, Brezhnev Malaba and reporter, Nduduzo Tshuma were undemocratic and inimical to freedom of expression and media freedom.
The day is also coming at a time when the Zimbabwe nation is anxiously awaiting for the liberalisation of airwaves and the granting of licenses to more newspapers to restore the industry hit by brain drain. The country has in the past decade lost the cream of the industry due to represseive laws that saw several journalists losing their jobs and others fleeing for their lives.
The government has announced it will next weekend hold an all stakeholders media conference, which many journalists are wary of, since they had been excluded from preparations.