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initiatives and media law reforms
July 25, 2007
MISA- Zimbabwe acknowledges
the Southern African Development Community (SADC) efforts to end
the Zimbabwean crisis and welcomes the talks between the opposition
MDC and ruling Zanu PF being mediated by President Thabo Mbeki of
media reports the main issues on the agenda include the need for
a new Constitution, electoral law reforms and the amendment of repressive
laws such as the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Public
Order and Security Act (POSA) and Broadcasting
Services Act (BSA).
With the 2008
presidential and parliamentary elections only a few months away,
the question of equitable and equal access to the public media as
envisioned under the SADC
Principles and Guidelines on the Conduct of Democratic Election
will inevitably be of intense interest and debate. It is in that
vein that MISA -Zimbabwe is of the strong view that the mediation
process should involve all stakeholders. This will ensure that the
process is all-embracing and representative of the concerns of the
generality of the citizens of Zimbabwe as reflected by the diverse
civic society groups in the country.
that those involved in the talks should consult widely in order
to capture the views of the general populace whose voices should
be represented through civil society organisations in order to input
into the mediation process as well as render legitimacy to the initiatives
through an all inclusive consultative process.
According to press reports
MISA-Zimbabwe is made to understand that laws such as AIPPA which
has contributed to the curtailment of free voices, opinions and
views through the closure of four privately owned newspapers has
been sidelined as a peripheral issue which will only be addressed
through discussions on the need for constitutional reforms and the
need for an explicit provision that guarantees Press Freedom. Scores
of journalists, media workers, publishers and editors have been
harassed, intimidated or arrested under AIPPA since its enactment
in 2002 effectively contributing to the shrinkage of Zimbabwe's
AIPPA should, therefore
feature prominently during the talks between the opposition MDC
and ruling Zanu PF as its well documented history and trail of destruction
and onslaught on the civil liberties of Zimbabweans speaks for itself.
very existence as complemented by other restrictive media laws such
as BSA, POSA, Criminal
Law Codification and Reform Act, Constitutional
Amendment (No 17) Act and the Interception
of Communications Bill recently passed by Parliament and the
Senate, compromise the right to media freedom and freedom of expression
which is critical to democratic practice more so towards the creation
of an environment conducive to free and fair elections.
insists that AIPPA should therefore be tabled as a separate item
on the agenda given the role it has played in limiting access to
information and restricting the free flow of alternative views,
ideas and opinions on issues of good governance and accountability
through the closure of independent platforms such as the Daily News,
Daily News on Sunday, The Tribune and Weekly Times. This law violates
regional declarations and principles such as the Windhoek Declaration
and SADC Principles
and Guidelines on the Conduct of Democratic Elections -
declarations and principles which are designed to foster democracy,
accountability and good governance in southern Africa in order for
the region to realise its full socio-economic and political potential
as a family united and bonded by the same democratic values and
submits that AIPPA has contributed towards the reversal of the shared
regional visions and missions as embodied under the Windhoek Declaration,
SADC Principles and Guidelines on the Conduct of Democratic Elections,
the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the Banjul Declaration
on the Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa thereby warranting
the serious and meticulous attention of delegates to the SADC mediated
talks as a single and separate agenda item.
The quest for constitutional
and electoral reforms will undoubtedly also feature prominently
during the ongoing South African mediated talks between the opposition
MDC and ruling Zanu PF as central and critical to the holding of
free and fair elections in 2008 and other subsequent elections thereafter.
to the creation of an environment conducive for free and fair elections
is the need to transform state broadcasters into truly independent
public broadcasters. The long term credibility and compliance with
the SADC Principles and Guidelines rests on pressing member states
to institute comprehensive media law reforms that will expunge restrictive
media laws such as the Broadcasting Services Act and Access to Information
and Protection of Privacy Act.
The SADC Guidelines espouse
the full participation of citizens in the electoral process, press
freedom and equal access by all political parties to state media,
freedom of association and political tolerance and independence
of the judiciary among its other 10 fundamental tenets for the holding
of free and fair elections.
It is in that regard
that the transformation of the ZBC into a truly independent public
broadcaster among other contributory factors will go a long way
in securing a free and fair environment ahead of the 2008 elections
and thus render the SADC guidelines meaningful and achievable.
The very existence of
repressive and restrictive laws such as AIPPA and POSA and the BSA
as it relates to the state's control of the ZBC are designed
to regulate free speech thereby muzzling the citizens right to freely
formulate and air their beliefs and political attitudes through
open discussions and platforms more so through the ZBC which is
funded by the taxpayer.
Public service broadcasting
therefore plays a critical role in meeting the citizens' desire
and hunger for the broadest possible information, advice, debate
and analysis to enable them to make informed decisions and choices
on issues that affect their daily lives.
The prevailing regulatory
environment as dictated by the BSA and the ZBC's governance,
ownership and management structure chokes its editorial independence
allowing the Ministry of Information and Publicity free reign over
the appointment of its Board of Directors, Chief Executive Officer
and editorial decisions.
ZBC has remained biased
in favour of the government and the ruling Zanu PF as it has centred
more on serving as the public relations arm of the ruling elite
and their acolytes in contravention of the SADC Principles and Guidelines,
the African Charter on Broadcasting and the Banjul Declarations
on the Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa.
The editorial stance
of the ZBC as a public media should therefore change as it has failed
to meet its public service mandate and conform to the SADC guidelines.
Free and fair elections include freedom of the press and access
to national radio and television which remains utopian under the
existing constitutional and legislative environment which has seen
the government tightening its grip on the ZBC
that for the ZBC to be respected as a truly independent broadcaster,
there is need to repeal the BSA and ensure that the new legislation
surrenders the appointment of its board of governors to a transparent
public nomination and selection process.
that the SADC should therefore insist and impress upon the ruling
elite during their forthcoming summit which will be held in Zambia
in August that the transformation of state broadcasters into truly
independent entities that reflect the plurality and diverse views
of society is a pre-condition to the holding of free and fair elections.
the MISA-Zimbabwe fact
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