THE board of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) this week roundly condemned Zimbabwe’s draconian press laws and called on President Robert Mugabe to immediately cease all attempts to silenc
e independent media voices in the country.
“Laws exist to protect President Mugabe from criticism while he is able to make unrestrained attacks on civil society and his critics in the media,” said WAN in a resolution adopted during its congress and World Editors Forum held in Istanbul, Turkey.
The global meeting this week attracted more than 1 300 publishers, editors and other senior newspaper executives.
The Paris-based global organisation that represents 18 000 newspapers and whose membership includes 72 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 13 news agencies and 10 regional and world-wide press groups, called for the scrapping of repressive media laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and the Public Order and Security Act (Posa).
“The board of WAN calls for theelimination of the repressive provi-sions of Aippa, together with Posa,and for these and other attempts to silence independent media to be ceased immediately,” it said.
Under Aippa, a Media and Informa-tion Commission has been set upto accredit journalists and licensemedia houses. Wan noted that thecommission’s chairman has demo-nstrated his hostility to the inde-pendent media and regularly abuses private newspapers.
“Journalists are subject to persistent abuse and threats in state-controlled media, and are threatened with arrest under draconian media and security laws,” said WAN.
“The independent media is finding it increasingly difficult to perform its role as a public watchdog given the hostility and lawlessness of ruling-party officials and the closure of democratic space.”
WAN defends and promotes press freedom worldwide. The organisation said it was gravely worried about the lack of media plurality in Zimbabwe, especially in the electronic media.
“The government has declined to license alternative radio or TV stations despite a court order to remove the state’s broadcasting monopoly,” said WAN. “Voters are unable to make an informed choice because they do not have access to a diversity of views.”