HARARE — The Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum (Zinef) posits that media freedom is a democratic value and forms the cornerstone of every democratic society in Zimbabwe.
As Zinef, we remain committed to a free, independent, diverse, open and pluralistic media environment based on principles set out in national, regional, continental and international instruments that include, inter alia:
- The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 20, Section 61 and 62,
- The Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa,
- The Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an independent and pluralistic Press,
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
- The African Charter on broadcasting which promotes the establishment of a three-tier broadcasting system comprising of public, commercial and community broadcasting,
- The Campaign for an African Platform on Access to Information (Apai Declaration).
We remain guided by principles that:
- Everyone has the right to freedom of expression and opinion, which includes the right to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive and impart ideas through any media regardless of frontiers’ either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of their choice,
- A free, independent and pluralistic press is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy and economic development,
- Media practitioners should have the right to establish self regulatory systems and develop their own codes of ethics, as self regulation is the best system for promoting high standards in the media,
- The broadcasting sector should comprise of a diverse, public, private and community broadcasting system governed by a single regulatory framework in line Everyone has the right to access information held by public bodies,
- Criminalisation of expression, that includes criminal defamation or libel is an unjustifiable restriction to the right to freedom of expression, therefore criminal defamation provisions should be repealed and replaced with appropriate civil defamation laws.
We, as Zinef, believe that priorities for the media in Zimbabwe are as follows:
Media Policy and Legislative Reform
The following media laws among others should be reviewed and subsequently aligned to provisions of the new constitution of Zimbabwe on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.
The realignment of the laws will aim at addressing inconsistencies between the new Constitution and existing media laws and policies.
- Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa)
Section 9(4), Section 5(3)(a), Section 9(4)(c) Section 17(1) and Section 11 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, should be reviewed and amended as they restrict the public’s right to Access information. The powers to deny access to information as provided by these statutes are too wide and open to abuse.
- Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act
Various sections of the law restrict the citizens’ right to freedom of expression, for instance Section 33 of the law which deals with the, “offence of undermining the authority of or insulting the president”, and sections 95 and 96 provide for the offences of Criminal Insult and Criminal Defamation respectively.
- Broadcasting Services Act
The appointment procedure for members of Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) perpetuates its lack of autonomy, independence and effectiveness. Section 4 of the Amendment Act provides for a new appointment
and composition procedure of BAZ.
This should have been a provision, which makes a substantial change in the broadcasting sector by ensuring proper constitution, independence and effectiveness of the regulating authority to diligently execute its duties as an autonomous entity. However, the autonomy of the body has remained compromised despite the amendments.
Section 11(11) of the BAZ, as amended in 2007, states that all broadcast licensees are subject to the provisions of Aippa in relation to the accreditation and conduct of journalists who are or will be employed by the broadcaster.
Thus not only do broadcasters have to satisfy the requirements of BAZ, but they also are subject to the restrictive regulation of the ZMC and the arbitrary decisions they can make, as that body also lacks independence and is politically compromised.
- Interception of Communications Act
Sections 75, Section 60 and Section 99 of the Act, provide requirements to obtain warranty of interception which are vague, general and subject to abuse.
Section 9(2), 11(8) and Section 12 of the law, places harsh duties on service providers to undertake interception of communication.