Media needs freedom from state

HARARE - Press freedom groups in Zimbabwe are calling for guarantees in the constitution that the country's media would be self-regulated.

Zimbabwean journalists launched a voluntary media council in June last year, hoping to show the government that the media could oversee itself and did not need state supervision.

President Robert Mugabe’s government introduced tough media laws six years ago, forming the Media and Information Commission, imposing state permits on local reporters and barring foreign journalists from working permanently in the country.

The Zimbabwe chapter of press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said this week the new government had to put in place a mechanism that guaranteed media freedom.

MISA Zimbabwe called for total scrapping of statutory regulation of the media saying the continued existence of the Media and Information Commission or its envisaged successor bodies, the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) and Media Council, was in contravention of press freedom instruments.

MISA said the closure of newspapers The Daily News, Daily News on Sunday, The Tribune and the Weekly Times by the MIC was a lesson on the dangers of statutory regulation.

Matthew Takaona, head of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, said the media was supposed to play a watchdog role on government and could not perform this function effectively if it relied on government benevolence for continued existence.

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