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Journalists are safe to pursue their profession within Zimbabwe: Monica Mutsvangwa

Ribeiro

The Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa has said her ministry shall strive to ensure that journalists are safe to peruse their profession within Zimbabwe since the country has laws that guarantee their safety.

This was revealed in a speech read on her behalf, on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI) on 1 November 2019 at a commemorative meeting organised by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) and the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (UNESCO ROSA) in Harare.

IDEI is a day proclaimed by the United General Assembly in 2013 through resolution A/RES/68/163. The aim of the resolution is to urge member states to implement measures to prevent violence against journalists and media workers and to ensure that any perpetrators of such violence are brought to justice.

“It has been observed that journalists are killed in the line of duty in Africa. It is sad to note that such cases remain unresolved. I however wish to point out that in Zimbabwe we have not yet experienced such escalation of violence against journalists and my ministry shall strive to ensure that journalists are safe to peruse their profession within Zimbabwe and that our laws guarantee that safety,” Minister Mutsvangwa said

In Zimbabwe, complaints have been raised by journalists and advocacy groups, and rightly so, against media laws which are restrictive and make journalism work difficult.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the Government led by President Mnangagwa, is focused on opening up democratic space and allowing journalists to do their work without impediments so as to give citizens adequate information to make informed decisions.

“As a ministry, our role is to inform the nation and that information role is carried out through your work as journalists. So, it is in our interest, that of the nation and the Second Republic to ensure that journalists are enabled to carry out their duty. Zimbabwe can only be open for business if journalists are allowed to do their business – for it is you who should inform the nation and the world about Zimbabwe and investment opportunities that abound in this country,” said Mutsvangwa.

The ministry of information has been working flat out to repeal the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA.) To date the Protection of Personal Information Bill has been placed before the Cabinet Committee on Legislation. The Freedom of Information Bill was gazetted on 5 July 2019, while the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill was gazetted on 9 August 2019. The last two Bills have been tabled before Parliament for First reading. It is also working on the Broadcasting Services Bill which is still being finalised by the drafters at the Attorney General’s office. The are meant to ensure a free, safe and protective media environment.

The UN Resident Coordinator to Zimbabwe, Ms. Maria Ribeiro, speaking on the same occasion, quoted UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres in his message on the day that said, “A free and open press is part of the bedrock of democracy and development. Yet in the last ten years, more than 700 journalists have been killed for simply doing their job.Many more journalists and media workers around the world suffer from intimidation, death threats and violence.”

Ms Ribeiro said nine out of ten cases of impunity against journalists go unpunished and as a  result, criminals are emboldened.

“By ending impunity, we deepen freedom of expression and bolster dialogue. We advance human rights and strengthen societies. From a quick look I had of the concept note shared with me, I note with great relief that no journalist death has been reported in the line of duty in Zimbabwe in the last ten years,” Ms Ribeiro said.

Zimbabwe has adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals with 169 targets that aim to end poverty, hunger, inequality, and promote justice, peace, gender equality, good health, quality education, jobs, innovation, environmental protection and strong partnership.

The UN senior official praised the Zimbabwean Government for taking the lead in the implementation and achievement of these goals, but said it can’t do so alone. Therefore, fostering multi-stakeholder engagement and partnership is critical to achieve these goals.

“The Media has critical role in advancing all the SDGs in general and the goals that specifically speak to the media such as the SDG 16 which aims to promote peace, justice and strong institutions. Particularly, SDG 16 target 10 that states “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.” In this regard, the Government and the Media can play their respective roles in the achievement of the SDGs in a mutually respectful, complementary and conducive environment.

“Finally, I would like to reiterate the message of the UN Secretary General, and I quote, “No journalist anywhere should have to risk their lives to report the news. Together let’s stand up for journalists and stand up for justice”.

Prof. Hubert Gijzen, UNESCO Regional Director said a safe environment for journalists and media workers is of key importance to promote freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Press freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of access to information also are part of the fundamental pillars of freedoms acknowledged in SDG 16.

He called upon all stakeholders to advance cooperation to prevent violence against journalists, protect them in their work and establish systematic prosecution mechanisms.

“Impunity damages whole societies by covering up serious human rights abuses, corruption, and crime. I also call upon all journalists, media professionals and media workers to strive for excellence in journalism.

“Freedom of Expression, Safety of Journalists and the reputation of the profession is being seriously eroded by the current upsurge of misinformation and disinformation. According to the 2019 Afro barometer report, citizen’s support to media freedom is decreasing in Africa.  This is a result of more people seeing the media as propagators of falsehoods, bias and hate speech. Therefore, lets ensure a media environment which is of high standard and quality, free, pluralistic, and independent,” Prof Gijzen said..

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende