SADC should monitor media reforms, says watchdog

media_newsHARARE - Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders has petitioned the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to ensure President Robert Mugabe sticks to his pledge to implement media reforms.

The watchdog warned that a climate of fear had taken hold within the journalistic community following the recent arrests of civil society members.

In a letter to SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao, the Paris-based media body voiced concern at the impact of the Zimbabwean governments internal crisis on the ability of journalists to work freely and the re-emergence of an independent press.

An increase in tension in the past three weeks between President Robert Mugabes Zanu (PF) and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirais Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has already had a negative impact on the state of press freedom and could lead to serious reversals, said Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Jean-Francois Julliard.

He cited several cases highlighting the deterioration of Zimbabwes media environment since the October 16 announcement by Tsvangirai that his MDC party would no longer co-operate with Zanu (PF) until Mugabe agreed to honour pledges he made in the global political agreement (GPA) signed in 2008.

The cases included the detention of an Al Jazeera TV crew on October 20. Three days later, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and several state-owned newspapers received a directive from Information Minister Webster Shamu to stop covering the activities of government ministers who were MDC members.

Julliard said the SADC should also closely monitor developments with regards to appointments to the proposed Zimbabwe Media Council (ZMC), a new entity that is supposed to issue licences to newspapers and facilitate the rebirth of the independent press.

The formation of the ZMC has been stalled by Mugabes dithering over the appointment of commissioners.

Some sources say that, after long and delicate negotiations, the President and Prime Minister reached agreement on the ZMCs nine members but they have not yet been appointed and may not be if the crisis within the government continues, Julliard said.

Post published in: Opinions

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