MEDIA, Information and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo will today appear before Parliament to speak on alignment of media laws with the Constitution.
Moyo will be quizzed by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting services chaired by Zanu PF Umzingwane MP William Dhewa at a time when there are fears of a renewed clampdown on the media.
Police last Thursday arrested Sunday Mail editor Edmund Kudzayi on allegations that he was the brains behind the Baba Jukwa blog on Facebook.
The phantom character has amassed over 400 000 followers on the social network site on claims that he is a senior Zanu PF official tired of corruption and other ills in the ruling party.
Kudzayi’s arrest has been condemned as a threat to media freedom and raised fresh questions about the government’s commitment to the new constitutional dispensation.
Since the charter was adopted last year, there have been calls to amend different statutes to ensure they were in tandem with the supreme law, but little progress has so far been achieved.
Some of the restrictive media laws that need amendments include the Broadcasting Services Act, the Public Order and Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), and others.
According to media lawyer David Tandiri there was need to amend Aippa because, for example, section 61 of the Constitution says everyone had a right to access to information, but in terms of Aippa the right to access to records was still restricted.
“There is need for definition of the word ‘information’ in Aippa in order for it to encompass all information as Aippa talks of rights to access records, whereas the Constitution talks of rights to access information. Information can be in any written form,” Tandiri said.
“Technically information can be stored by way of soft copies including braille and the right to information needs to be expanded to reflect that.”
Calls to have different laws aligned with the charter have intensified with civic society groups saying amendments and even a complete overhaul of some laws was imperative.
However, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs deputy minister Fortune Chasi recently told a workshop on alignment of laws by Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe that the exercise had been hindered by shortages of drafters.
Chasi said the government was committed to realigning laws with the Constitution adding that although the ministry experienced shortages of drafters, a lot of work had been done with over 300 out of 450 statutes already drafted.
The Constitutional Court recently struck down the criminal defamation law, but police continue to use it to hound journalists.