CONTINENTAL media watchdog, African Media Barometer, has accused Zimbabwe of lagging behind in the implementation of regional and international protocols that promote media freedom and diversity.
REPORT BY EVERSON MUSHAVA CHIEF REPORTER
In its year-end report launched in Harare yesterday by Misa-Zimbabwe, African Media Barometer said the Zimbabwean Constitution contained several clauses that curtailed media freedom.
African Media Barometer is a self-monitoring tool used to assess the state of media and freedom of expression in African countries.
“Since the formation of the inclusive government in 2009, there have been reports of new laws in the making to replace Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), such as the Freedom of Information Act and the Media Practitioners Act. No actual steps have been taken in this direction though,” the report said.
Speaking at the same event, Chris Mhike — a commissioner with the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) — admitted that the country’s media laws were out of sync with international best practices.
“Fear still affects the Zimbabwean society and journalists are not spared,” Mhike said.
“There are some issues, such as those to do with the security forces, that journalists are still afraid to publish. This is not consistent with a democratic society. Journalists are now practising self-censorship due to fear.
“Due to repressive laws, we have seen journalists being arrested for undermining the authority of the President. This is not good to the development of journalism,” said Mhike.
Mhike said laws such as AIPPA, Public Order and Security Act, Broadcasting Services Act and Criminal Law and Codification Reform Act were unpopular in Zimbabwe.
“There is a feeling that statutory regulation does not promote media freedom. Ultimately, self-regulation is the way forward,” he said.
The report also noted that journalistic standards had plummeted in recent years mainly because of political polarisation.
“It calls for journalists to go back to the basics to ensure accuracy and fairness,” Njabulo Ncube, Misa-Zimbabwe board chairman said.