By Nelson Chamisa
THE MDC on Wednesday joined the international community in celebrating World Press Freedom Day amid an unprecedented crusade by the regime to consolidate the dictatorial project by closing private media institutions and creating an information terrain re
plete with a pliant media that dances to the tune of the dictatorship.
The MDC bemoans the death of press freedom in Zimbabwe.
Since the gigantic electoral fraud of 2000, the government has become the major predator of press freedom by closing six private media institutions, chief among them the country’s most popular daily newspaper, the Daily News.
The Daily News on Sunday, Joy TV, the Tribune, the Weekly Times and Voice of the People radio (VoP) are all in the country’s media graveyard — thanks to a frightened government that has become allergic to critical thought and opinion.
This year’s celebrations come at a time when the government is prevaricating over an unambiguous ruling by High Court judge, Justice Makarau, to reopen the Daily News. The judge ruled that the Media and Information Commission (MIC) was biased.
The MIC has earned itself a reputation as the country’s sole media undertaker that kills and buries all voices critical of the regime. The government insists on retaining the unpopular media regulatory authority.
It is sad that we commemorated this year’s Press Freedom Day amid this gloom. While the government has expanded media training institutions, it has gone on a deliberate crusade to curtail press freedom and to close private media institutions — the potential employers of those trainee journalists that are being churned out every year.
The government’s reaction towards a critical press confirms its pariah status and its growing fear of its own people. Its mission is to maintain the iron curtain and to keep Zimbabwe as an isolated and insulated island far removed from the global village that the whole world has become.
The regime must be unmasked and the international community must join hands with all democratic forces in the country to stop this desperate crusade to mutilate and annihilate all forces championing change and diversity of opinion.
The government’s latest plan to intercept personal communications adds yet another fang to the dangerous serpent that this regime has become.
This fixation with snooping into private inter-personal communications is a violation of individual rights and a clear manifestation of a regime that is now afraid of its own people.
This year’s theme was “The Correlation between Media Freedom and the Eradication of Poverty”.
We cannot pretend to be eradicating poverty when we are busy picking wars with private media houses, which espouse the feelings of the majority, and have themselves become the voices of the down-trodden in the wake of unprecedented tyranny.
The MDC salutes all heroes persecuted for fighting for change and democracy in Zimbabwe. We encourage these heroes and heroines of the journalistic trade to soldier on for the sake of a new Zimbabwe.
We believe a free press is an agent of social change and development, and that the media are an important industry that enhances economic development.
We believe that an all-inclusive voluntary media council will do a better job than an imposed regulatory body unilaterally appointed by the government to promote standards of media ethics, professionalism and practice.
The MDC government will restore the confidence of citizens in the ability of the state to play its role of provider of infrastructure and enhance freedom of movement and expression by repealing laws and dissolving institutions that restrict the right to information and expression, in particular Posa, Aippa, Potraz, BAZ and replace them with a legal environment that encourages investment in communications and media.
The MDC will facilitate the enactment of media laws that will provide for constitutional guarantees for press freedom and the right of access to government information.
We will encourage the establishment of privately-owned independent television stations, privately-owned independent, community radio stations, and privately-owned newspapers.
All Zimbabweans, from all walks of life, wherever they are, whatever they are doing, are called upon to save our country for a new Zimbabwe and a new beginning.
* Nelson Chamisa is MDC secretary for information and publicity.