MEDIA organisations have expressed disappointment over a “cocktail” of provisions that curtail media freedom and access to information in the new constitutional draft, saying the provisions are steeped in the same attitude as the current constitution.
While applauding the draft constitution for explicitly guaranteeing media freedom and freedom of expression, media experts have said it appeared more of a privilege than a fundamental right.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe director Nhlanhla Ngwenya said the draft constitution safeguards freedom of expression and explicitly guarantees media freedom and access to information, which liberties were only inferred under Section 20 of the current constitution.
Ngwenya said: “Also notable is the constitutional protection of journalists against revealing their sources as well as the ushering in of an independent broadcasting regulatory mechanism.
However, Ngwenya said the entrenchment of a statutory media regulatory board, the Zimbabwe Media Commission, contradicts the spirit and letter of media freedom and access to information the draft seeks to promote.
“The commission, for example, retains powers to ‘take disciplinary action’ against journalists deemed to have violated ethical conduct. In a democracy, the duty of a media regulator is not to ‘discipline’ journalists or media houses, but to secure an environment that would promote free media activity.”
Vice-chairperson of the Voluntary Medias Council of Zimbabwe Cris Chinaka said, “The media industry has clearly and loudly said it wants self-regulation. We want it to be explicit in the constitution, especially coming from a period where we had repression of media practitioners.
We need to continue to campaign for an environment that enables freedom of expression where journalists’ issues are treated as civil matters.”