Media groups brief ACHPR chairperson on media reforms

MISA- Zimbabwe on 16 May 2016 hosted a dinner for the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Commissioner Pansy Tlakula in Harare during which she was briefed on developments pertaining to media reforms in Zimbabwe.

newspapersDuring the meeting attended by media groups and human rights defenders, Commissioner Tlakula who is on a four- day advocacy visit in her capacity as the ACHPR’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, was appraised on the  state of the media, freedom of expression and access to information.

She said her advocacy visit is aimed at supporting initiatives being undertaken towards entrenching freedom of expression and access to information in Zimbabwe.

Commissioner Tlakula said she has undertaken similar visits to other African countries to encourage them to adopt the ACHPRs’ Model Law on Access to Information in fashioning their own information laws. Member states were also being encouraged to decriminilise expression and to repeal insult laws, she said.

The Commissioner said the striking down of criminal defamation by Zimbabwe’s
Constitutional Court was an encouraging development that prompted her to write a congratulatory message to the government.

She singled out Mozambique, Kenya, Malawi and Ghana as some of the countries that have since adopted the ACHPR’s Model Law by crafting and tabling the requisite bills before their respective parliaments. Zimbabwe, she said, should also be encouraged to follow suit.

Meanwhile, representatives of media groups acknowledged as a positive development the constitutional provisions that now explicitly guarantee media freedom and access to information. They also noted the progressive findings and recommendations of the government-sanctioned Information and Media Panel of Inquiry’s (IMPI) report.

However, the representatives lamented the slow pace and lack of political will to implement media legislative reforms in line with the new constitutional dispensation and the recommendations of the IMPI report.

As a result journalists and citizens continued to be arrested and harassed on the basis of unconstitutional laws that remain in the country’s statutes. The continued existence of presidential insult laws and threats to control social media also impacted negatively on citizens’ right to free expression.

Concern was also raised on the politicisation of what should constitute a community thus stalling the licensing of community radio stations. Other issues related to the transformation of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) into a truly independent broadcaster and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe’s licensing regime.

Commissioner Tlakula described the dinner engagement as “extremely useful” ahead of her scheduled meetings with state actors and law makers.

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