INFORMATION minister Jonathan Moyo made more enemies than friends in his first stint in the government and most people were alarmed when President Robert Mugabe recalled him in August.
Moyo is rightly or wrongly blamed for the polarisation that has characterised Zimbabwe’s media landscape for over a decade.
Journalists, especially those working for the private media, have borne the brunt of the apparent criminalisation of the journalism profession as they are often arrested on alleged criminal defamation charges.
Suffice to say, most of these spurious charges often brought at the instigation of government officials and senior police officers who fear scrutiny, rarely stood the test at the courts.
The majority of the journalists taken to the courts for criminal defamation have been acquitted hence the feeling in the media fraternity that the law has been abused by the politically powerful to muzzle journalists.
Therefore, we found Moyo’s weekend statements that criminal defamation must be removed from statute books very refreshing.
The minister rightly noted that the law of defamation had fallen victim to “powerful or vested and well-connected political interests”.
What makes the legal provision even more unnecessary is the fact that people who feel their reputation has been impaired by a news report can get recourse through civil action for libel.
Journalists have also shown commitment through the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe that they are prepared to subject themselves to a process that guarantees recourse to those aggrieved by media reports.
Moyo rightly noted that criminal defamation provisions are inconsistent with Zimbabwe’s Constitution that seeks to cement civil liberties.
The minister has done a lot in the few months that he has been at the helm to reassure media stakeholders that it is time journalists turned a leaf in their relationship with the State.
He has toured privately-owned newspapers to understand their operations and also share his vision for the ministry.
The media industry must embrace this progressive approach by Moyo because this could be the best ever chance to right all the problems that have suppressed the growth of vibrant journalism in Zimbabwe.