MISA-Zimbabwe 2014 World Press Freedom Day Statement

MISA-Zimbabwe joins the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day on May 3 2014 amid increased calls for the realignment of Zimbabwe’s media laws with the new constitutional provisions on freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information.

Of particular concern to MISA-Zimbabwe is the government’s seeming lethargy where it concerns the envisaged legislative reforms as demanded for in terms of Section 61 and 62 of the new constitution.

Existing laws such as AIPPA, Public Order and Security Act (POSA), Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), Censorship and Entertainment Controls Act, Interception of Communications Act, Official Secrets Act and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Act, among others, immediately stick out as some of the laws crying for wholesale repeal or amendment of some of their provisions.

This is even of particular urgency where it pertains to AIPPA given that Section 62 (4) of the Constitution provides as follows:

Legislation must be enacted to give effect to this right (access to information), but may restrict access to information in the interests of defence, public security or professional confidentiality, to the extent that the restriction is fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic society based on opennesss, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom.

Regrettably, almost a year after the signing into law of the new constitution, Zimbabwe is still to enact a new freedom of information law as stated and demanded for by the country’s supreme law.

Our 2014 World Press Freedom Day theme: Right to Know Key to Life, Enact a New Right to Info Law, cannot have been more timely given that the new constitution demands for a new democratic freedom of information law to replace AIPPA.

Although an inter-ministerial committee is reportedly looking into more than 400 laws that need to be realigned with the new constitution, MISA-Zimbabwe demands that there be transparency and openness as to the exact laws that are being subjected to this scrutiny.

This demand is underpinned by Section 62 (2) of the Constitution which states:

Every person, including the Zimbabwean media, has the right of access to any information held by any person, including the State, in so far as the information is required for the exercise or protection of a right.

The media plays a fundamental role in accessing information which is vital to the day-to-day functioning of a democracy and the socio-economic wellbeing of citizens. Citizens should thus be empowered through enabling legislation to request and receive information from public and private bodies.

Intrinsically linked to this important media role is the need to license community radio stations as well as transforming ZBC into a truly independent public broadcaster that affords equal and equitable space to Zimbabwean citizens to air their views and access pertinent information regardless of their social or political affiliations.

The authorities should therefore speedily repeal AIPPA and all pieces of legislation that criminalise freedom of expression; curtail access to information and choke the media from freely fulfilling its fundamental watchdog role.

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