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Report on International Conference on Media Support Strategies for Zimbabwe
International Media Support (IMS), The Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa (NiZA), Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) and the Open Society Institute
November 30, 2005

http://www.i-m-s.dk/Media/PDF/Zimbabwe

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CONTENTS:

Questions of strategy
The following questions arise from the background papers with regards the kind of strategies that are needed to address the current problems facing free expression and access to information in Zimbabwe. These questions are designed to guide the discussions at the conference:

Structural reform of media

  • To what extent do existing constitutional reform initiatives reflect the provisions of the African Commissionís Declaration on Free Expression and other international instruments with regards free expression and access to information?
  • How can free expression advocates promote broad-based support for free expression and access to information?
  • How should free expression advocates engage with the efforts of the NCA and / or other initiatives so as to ensure that Zimbabwe has a progressive constitution, with adequate safeguards of free expression and access to information, in the future?
  • What steps can be taken to promote media law reform in line with a progressive constitution?
  • What other steps, such as litigation or the presentation of cases to the African commission, can be taken in the meantime, and would these be worthwhile?
  • What role can mass media play in ensuring that the majority of Zimbabweans are knowledgeable of their rights, and the laws that affect them?
  • To what extent are litigation, legal defence, the lobbying of parliamentarians and other politicians, and the revival of an independent media council worthwhile strategies for promoting free expression and access to information?
  • How can efforts to promote constitutional and legal reform compliment the development of a more progressive communications culture, and vice versa?

Developing and more democratic communications culture
Should media be advocates or purely objective news gatherers given the current situation in Zimbabwe? To what extent is there scope for being both? What steps could the Zimbabwean media take to go beyond simply providing an alternative to government propaganda, and providing more diverse and balanced information?

  • How can mass media make more effective use of social structures in order to better access the localised spheres of the home, church, workplace and community?
  • How can media collaborate with those with access to these networks and spheres in order to promote more effective dialogue and communication?
  • How can media become more tuned in to social networks both inside and outside the country while also maintaining their professionalism?
  • How can mass media develop its content to make it more relevant to the information needs of those outside the urban areas?
  • How can media improve the quality and depth of their journalism, particularly with regards covering issues that may appeal to a wider audience? How can journalists report on issues differently in a way that brings these issues alive?

Promoting joined-up media
Do Zimbabwean media workers inside and outside the country have a shared vision and objectives for the promotion of free expression and access to information. In which case, what are these vision and objectives?

How might these visions and objectives shape a more collective and co-ordinated approach to promoting the free flow of diverse and accurate information to Zimbabweans living inside and outside the country? In particular, what opportunities are there for collaboration between media inside and outside the country?

  • What approaches could be taken to developing a cadre of professional media workers for the future when media does become free in Zimbabwe? What approaches to training and education work, what approaches do not work?
  • How could media in the Diaspora mobilise public opinion in their host countries around the Zimbabwean issue while maintaining their professionalism?
  • What mechanisms can be put in place to further support privately owned, commercial media in their role of promoting free expression and access to information in such a harsh business environment? Should such media receive donor subsidies? What other alternatives might there be?

Money matters

  • To what extent are donors prepared to collaborate with, and buy into collective strategies for promoting free expression and access to information in Zimbabwe?
  • To what extent are donorsí Zimbabwean partners prepared to collaborate with and buy into collective strategies for promoting free expression and access to information in Zimbabwe?
  • What alternative mechanisms exist for channelling funding into Zimbabwe, and how may these be applied.

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