‘Govt not keen on media reforms’

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Media reform activists on Tuesday said there was no political will from some sections in the inclusive government for media reforms.

In a statement to mark World Press Freedom Day, Media Institute of Southern Africa trustee and lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said without the political will there would be no transformation of the state-run media.

She said the media had to be free for people to understand what exactly was happening in the country.

“I doubt that ZBC in the current political environment can be transformed,” she said. “The political will isn’t there and I doubt that it will be found in the immediate future. There is no impetus to free the media as a matter of urgency.”

Iden Wetherell, chairman of the Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum, said it was saddening to note that two years after public and private media practitioners agreed on the repeal of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and other repressive measures, nothing had been done to implement the agreed proposals.

“We all made a commitment in Kariba in May 2009 but nothing has been done,” he said.

“Three years since The Standard Editor Davison Maruziva and company directors were charged together with Arthur Mutambara for publishing an opinion piece that was considered unpalatable by the State, those charges are still outstanding,” he said.

“Two years ago, Vincent Kahiya, then Editor of the Zimbabwe Independent, and Constantine Chimakure, News Editor, were charged under the same law, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, for publishing the names of those involved in abducting (human rights activist) Jestina Mukoko and others when those names had already been included in court papers and were therefore in the public domain.

“Those are notorious measures that many of us have suffered under and they need to go now,” Wetherell said. He said state journalists “bleating” about being on the sanctions list should change their attitude and become more professional.

“What have they done since 2008 to introduce greater professionalism in the public media? The government press is used as a tool by the regime to claim that (President Robert) Mugabe won the 2008 elections and to deny space to the party that actually won a majority of votes. That’s an abuse of power by any definition,” he said.

Wetherell said there was need for all exiled journalists to return home. They should have a “speedy and unobstructed return”, he said.

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists president Dumisani Sibanda slammed the “inhuman treatment of journalists by the police” when arrested saying it should stop immediately.