MISA ‘shocked’ by fresh threat to Zim journalists

The Chairman of the media rights watchdog, MISA Zimbabwe, said the group is ‘shocked’ by the fresh threats leveled against the country’s media fraternity this week.

Njabulo Ncube was reacting to statements by the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), which has threatened to censure what it called “errant journalists” through a ‘Media Council’

Addressing media stakeholders in Kwekwe on Wednesday, ZMC chairperson Godfrey Majonga said the council, to be set up as early as November 30th, would have the power to have journalists prosecuted, suspended or deregistered, along with their media houses.

“Powers of the Media Council as provided by the Act include the following when a breach has been made in the case of a journalist: cautioning the journalist, referring the matter for prosecution, suspending for a specific period not exceeding three months the accreditation of the journalist or deleting his or her name from the roll of journalists,” Majonga said.

He also warned media houses that they risked prosecution or suspension if they contravened the regulations.

MISA Zimbabwe’s Ncube told SW Radio Africa on Friday that his organisation “does not support this threat to media and to freedom of expression.” He added that Zimbabwe is far from where it should be in terms of media freedoms, as promised by the unity government.

“The Global Political Agreement (which formed the basis for the coalition government) talks of media reforms. But such reforms have not been forthcoming save for what I regard as cosmetic reforms, like the licensing of a few newspapers this year,” Ncube said.

He also referred to the calls for commercial radio licence applications as evidence of this ‘cosmetic’ reform, saying “three of the four shortlisted applicants have definite ties to the ZANU PF side of government.” The four are KISS FM (which is partnering with the ZBC to provide news broadcasts), AB Communications (led by the former head of the ZANU PF linked Affirmative Action Group, Supa Mandiwanzira), the ZimPapers Talk Radio Project (which publishes the state’s mouthpiece Herald newspaper), and Radio VOP.

“Three are linked to the government. Now you have a plot to censure journalists. Surely you cannot even talk of media freedom when this is happening,” Ncube said. – SW Radio Africa

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