THE Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) has urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to speedily align the country’s media laws and policies with the constitution.
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Misa acting director Tabani Moyo said although the President stated in his meeting with Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) that he would not pursue a “vindictive agenda in the spirit of nation-building”, he should ensure the safety and security of journalists conducting their lawful professional duties.
AMH publishes the Zimbabwe Independent, NewsDay and The Standard.
“Above all, he (Mnangagwa) should also be accessible to the media, both public and private, as it fulfils its watchdog role to foster transparency and accountability. In the same spirit, Misa Zimbabwe calls for the speedy alignment of the country’s media laws and policies with the constitution as provided for in terms of Sections 61 and 62 and indeed other fundamental sections enshrined under the Declaration of Rights,” Moyo said.
Sections 61 and 62 guarantee the right to freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information.
In the meeting, Mnangagwa noted that there is need for divergent views to be expressed in the media so that the country moves with speed in building an enduring democracy.
Moyo also said if the pillars of democracy are to be strengthened, existing repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), among others, should be scrapped.
“These laws impinge on citizens’ right to freedom of expression and free flow of information which is critical in shaping a new democratic dispensation,” Moyo said.
He noted that since 2001, after the enactment of BSA, Zimbabwe does not have a three-tier broadcasting system comprising public, commercial and community broadcasting as stipulated by domestic, regional and international laws and instruments respectively.
The media advocacy group also urged the President to review the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill through the respective ministry so that it upholds digital rights rather than focussing on security concerns only.
“We say so, because he recently joined the online platforms and realising that it’s a critical platform to engage the nation and also keeping in touch with the national pulse,” Moyo said.
In the meeting with the AMH team, Mnangagwa said the government was prepared to work with opposition political parties, independent media, people in the Diaspora and investors outside the country to build a nation that prides itself in peace and unity on national issues.
AMH chairman Trevor Ncube said the company’s publications would remain independent, so as to play their effective watchdog role, and they should not be perceived as enemies of the state.
“We will not always agree on everything with the government, but when we criticise or point mistakes, we do so as patriotic citizens who love their country dearly,” Ncube said.