Free Press still elusive: VMCZ

BY LORRAINE MUROMO

Media lobby organisation, Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) yesterday said a continued media violations in the country was a sign that a free press was still far from being achieved.

VMCZ executive director Loughty Dube made the remarks as the country joins the rest of the world to celebrating World Press Freedom Day on Monday, May 3 amid growing calls for states to protect journalists.

This year’s theme is Information as a Public Good.

Dube told NewsDay Weekender that the country has been poorly performing in terms of allowing freedom of expression.

“Zimbabwe continues to score lowly on the World Press Freedom index and this obviously has been due to the bad media laws that existed on the statute books,” Dube said.

“After the scraping off of Aippa (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act), there is hope that the laws that would be enacted to replace Aippa will be democratic and will promote media freedom and media professionalism.

“Zimbabwe will continue to score lowly on the global media scale until the country comes up with significant media law reforms.”

Dube said the government should put more effort in trying to improve the working environment for media practitioners.

“The government has an opportunity during this law reform process to come up with democratic laws. However, that commitment by the government should reflect on the final laws that are enacted,” Dube said.

“While government is parroting an improved media environment, media violations, including the harassments of journalists has been taking place in the last two years.

“While there is nothing much to celebrate, the commitment by the government to reform is positive and what is left for us to see is incremental gains that will accrue from the ‘reforms’ that will take place.”

Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe director Tabani Mpofu said there was no media freedom in the country and hoped that the celebrations will bring back sanity to the fraternity.

“The commemorations of World Press Freedom Day globally are a key event. This year, it is even more paramount in that its marking 30 years after the declaration on independent diverse and pluralistic media in Africa was done in Windhoek, Namibia.

“Thirty years after the Windhoek Declaration, we are sad that journalism continues to be criminalised as seen by the attacks on media.

“In Zimbabwe alone last year we recorded about 52 cases of violations, journalists under siege, issues of repressive laws governing the practice and exercise of the media which is provided for in the Constitution, but archaic laws are being mutated.”

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