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Govt urged to promote openness

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Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology chairperson Settlement Chikwinya (MDC-T) has urged the government to promote a culture of openness and allow journalists unfettered access to public documents, to ensure the public is well informed on governance matters.

BY OUR CHIEF REPORTER

Addressing journalists and parliamentarians attending a workshop organised by the Zimbabwe Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Banket recently, Chikwinya said free access to information promoted trust between, government and the public.

“The right to information is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and is a component of the broader right to freedom of expression,” Chikwinya said.

“Invariably, as in the case of Zimbabwe, there are some limitations, which include national security on the public’s ability to access certain types of documents and information.

“However, it is the duty of decision-makers to always ensure disclosure and for us as parliamentarians to promote a culture of openness in government departments.

“The communication media has suffered from contradictory tendencies as political self-interest has too often
ridden roughshod over the public’s right to free and unfettered news and information.”

Uzumba MP Simbaneuta Mudarikwa (Zanu PF) said there was need to ensure MPs crafted laws that were in sync with the national constitution to avoid contradictions.

Mudarikwa cited the Official Secrets Act as an affront to most democratic laws on the statute books and advocated for it repealed.

“There is need to repeal such laws that prohibit access to information from civil servants. All laws should be constitutional,” he said.

Media consultant Rashweat Mukundu said there was need for  the government to open up for media scrutiny.

“There is need to ensure that the government and public bodies are fully accountable to the public.

“Without such a right, the right to access and imparting of information is compromised.”

Media Alliance of Zimbabwe co-ordinator Patience Zirima said secrecy breeds corruption and limits the public’s access to other rights such as health, education, among others.

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