IN what is seen as a move to counter state claims that Zimbabwe’s media laws are modelled on Swedish regulations, the Swedish embassy in Harare has organised a study tour for journalists to the
Supporters of Zimbabwe’s repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), including MIC chair Tafataona Mahoso and Information minister Jonathan Moyo, have claimed it was no different to Sweden’s media laws. The silence of the Swedish embassy could have lent credence to these claims.
However, Zimbabwean journalists from both the government and privately-owned media will have a chance to make the comparison during the week-long study tour of Sweden.
In a letter addressed to the selected journalists, Swedish ambassador to Zimbabwe, Kristina Svensson, said the trip would “provide a general understanding of Swedish society and culture, and specifically Swedish laws on freedom of speech and access to information”.
Svensson said that she hoped the trip would inspire discussions on issues relating to freedom of expression and the role of the media, as well as encourage networks between journalists working in Zimbabwe and their counterparts in Sweden.
Analysts see this as Sweden’s attempt to rebut the state propaganda. Sweden is considered to have a strong culture of freedom of expression.
Andrew Moyse of the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) said it was disheartening for countries such as Sweden to remain silent when they were subjected to such claims. “We hope that this trip will go a long way in explaining how repressive the media legislation in this country is,” said Moyse. “Comparisons with the reality in Sweden will dispel the myth propagated by those who created Aippa.”
Mahoso on Wednesday denied ever claiming that Aippa was modelled on Swedish laws. He however said Swedish media regulations were stricter than Aippa.
“We have never said that Aippa was modelled on Swedish media laws. No, we have never said that,” he said. “What we have said is that Swedish laws are even more strict than what we have here.”
Journalists’ associations will also send representatives on the one-week tour.
The programme will include meetings with a number of institutions and individuals.
These include a visit to major media outlets – newspapers, television and radio stations, the office of the Press Ombudsman, the Press Council, Swedish Union of Journalists, Swedish Parliament, Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, Office of the Chancellor of Justice and the University College of Journalism, among others.