By Staff Reporter
HARARE – Zimbabwe has made significant strides under the Second Republic to ensure a safe, free and competitive operating environment for all media. Underpinning the theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day, “Information for the Public good”, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting services, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa highlighted government’s efforts towards ensuring press freedom which include the passage of several bills into laws and the opening up of airwaves for both radio and television broadcasts.
“In July 2020, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) was repealed and effectively replaced with the Freedom of information Act, the Freedom of Information Act heralded a new chapter in the country’s media landscape in as far as transparency and access to information is concerned,” read part of the statement Minister Mutsvangwa issued to mark World Press Freedom day.
Minister Mutsvangwa noted that the coming into effect of the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act also highlights the developments registered in the media sector.
The Act seeks to make further provision with regard to the functions of the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the manner in which the commission exercises its functions.
The Act has been widely commended by stakeholders such as the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) for being progressive and providing a wide definition of media which includes the dissemination of information through the internet and any other electronic means.
In a bid to open up the airwaves, six private television stations were granted licenses by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe in November 2020.
“It is expected that these new players will bring diversity and plurality in the media sector as well as create employment,” said Mutsvangwa.
Mutsvangwa also emphasised the need for improvement of working conditions for media practitioners and in this era of the Covid-19 pandemic, media house owners were encouraged to ensure provision of adequate PPE since the government has already designated media practitioners as essential service workers.
“Journalists were also prioritised together with frontline health workers in the national Covid-19 vaccination programme. It is my hope that all journalists have by now taken advantage of the special designation as essential service workers to get their Covid-19 vaccine,” said Mutsvangwa.
In 1993, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 3 May as World Press Freedom Day following a recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of the violations of press freedom. It is a reminder that publications and social media are censored, fined, suspended, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked and even killed worldwide.
This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme “Information as a Public Good” serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind. The theme is of urgent relevance to all countries across the world. It recognizes the changing communications system that is impacting on our health, our human rights, democracies and sustainable development.