Today the world celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom. The day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993.This year’s global theme is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.”
The Constitution of Zimbabwe in section 61(1) guarantees freedom of expression and states in section 61(2) that every person is entitled to freedom of the media which includes the protection of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources of information. Section 62 also guarantees access to information. This constitutional framework is the guiding principle for all legislative frameworks.
Press Freedom in Zimbabwe remains a real issue in light of the lived harsh realities of enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrests that compromise the state of human rights in Zimbabwe. In December 2018, Justice Nyaradzo Munangati-Manongwa ordered the Zimbabwe Republic Police to surrender a camera to journalists who were arrested for covering a protest in Harare in December 2018. The judge declared the conduct of the ZRP unlawful. The Forum and Media Monitors applauds the work of the Judiciary where it protects the constitutional values and global international law principles.
The Forum and Media Monitors encourage the Government of Zimbabwe, as it deliberates on the proposed Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill, to ensure that the provisions are aligned with the Constitution and refrain from enacting into law a Bill that curtails freedom of the media. The Forum and Media Monitors urge the Government to recall that Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides for freedom of expression that includes the right to receive and impart information through the media. This freedom must not be violated.
The 2019 theme is closely interlinked with the objectives of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which seek to promote “an Africa of good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law”. Press Freedom is a reflection of good governance in a democratic society. For a true reflection of democracy before, during and post elections, journalists must have a safe space for capturing and expressing the unfolding social, economic and political landscape.
The Forum and Media Monitors condemn all arbitrary detentions or torture of journalists as they execute their constitutional freedom of expression and media freedom. The Forum and Media Monitors also condemn the unlawful shut down of the internet by the Government which interfered with the free flow of information during the ZimShutDown period in January 2019.
The Forum and Media Monitors therefore call on the Government of Zimbabwe to:
- Align all media laws with the Constitution
- Allow for self-regulation of the Media
- Repeal criminal defamation laws, which curtail freedom of the media
- Licence community radio stations to enhance access to information
- Protect journalists in the line of their work.