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Media Indaba Revised After Boycott Threats

THE Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity has revised the agenda for an all-stakeholders conference to review the country’s media environment in Kariba next week after media organisations threatened to boycott it.

Media organisations and journalists had said the agenda, with its prospect of unreconstructed media controls, was contrary to the principles of the global political agreement.

Journalists had also questioned the inclusion of speakers such as the chairman of the defunct Media and Information Commission, Tafataona Mahoso, and former Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo who are perceived as “enemies” of media freedom.

The conference — postponed last month — will be held under the theme “Towards an Open, Tolerant and Responsible Media Environment”.

Its objective is to guide government’s media policy. Originally pencilled in for Nyanga, it will run from May 6-9.

Jameson Timba, the Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that the ministry had revised some of the themes for the conference and added more presenters.

Timba said there was nothing wrong with the previously announced speakers as the ministry had invited people who stood for the old and new media orders in a bid to create a balance.

“In terms of presenters we have some who represent the old media order who have been invited to give a historical account of Zimbabwe’s media landscape,” Timba said. “These have been balanced with a team of presenters who are focusing their attention on how we can review our media landscape in line with a new vision.”

Some of the speakers at the four-day conference are Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, Attorney-General Johannes Tomana, Ambassador Chris Mutsvangwa, Professor Tawana Khupe, Reuters Harare bureau chief Cris Chinaka, and Harare mayor and lawyer Much Masunda.

Timba said the conference was a follow up to deliberations made during a cabinet retreat at Victoria Falls in March.

“Following the government retreat, the ministry adopted a new vision which should create an environment that allows for unimpeded supply, flow and consumption of information,” he said.

Timba said the conference would be looking positively into the future and its outcome would make a significant contribution in shaping media policy and laws in Zimbabwe.

“The strategic objective of the conference is to determine how that vision can be realised through a process of reviewing the current media policies and laws,” he said.
During the conference various media stakeholders would make presentations on themes relating to the media.

Zimbabwe National Editors Forum chair Iden Wetherell said he welcomed the changes as it meant there would be a wider diversity of voices heard. But there was “a clear need for root-and-branch reform, not tinkering”, he said.

Some of the topics that would be discussed are “freedom of expression, media and the rights of the state (Tomana)”, “the media, a Christian perspective (Trevor Manhanga)”, “regulation and print media; experience to date (Mahoso)”, “the media and national interest in a global context (Olley Maruma)”, and  “sanctions, publishing and access to information (Phyllis Johnson)”.


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