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World Press Freedom Day petition
MISA-Zimbabwe
May 05, 2009

World Press Freedom Day Petition to the Speaker of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe, Honourable Lovemore Moyo, The Honourable President of the Senate, Honourable Edna Madzongwe, on the Urgency of Democratic Media Law and Policy Reform in Zimbabwe

Cc: Honourable Gift Chimanikire, Chairman of the Portfolio committee on Media Information and Technology.
All members of Parliament.
Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity
Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies.

We, the undersigned journalists and media practitioners, concerned with the continued intimidation and harassment of members of our profession, cognisant of the continued lack of diversity in Zimbabwe's print and electronic media, as well as the continued statutory regulation of the media hereby petition the Speaker of Parliament to undertake, on behalf of the media fraternity in Zimbabwe the following interim and long term measures for democratic media law reform;

Interim Measures

a) To persuade and insist that the inclusive government ensures that there is a cessation of all harassment, intimidation, illegal detention, torture and criminalisation of the work of journalists, media practitioners and media houses. This is especially urgent with the ongoing cases against journalists Andrisson Manyere and Jestina Mukoko who were initially abducted and have been kept in prison as well as continually harassed by members of the state security services.

b) To establish the Zimbabwe Media Commission in terms of the amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act of January 2008 with the full knowledge that statutory regulation of the media is not preferable and that in Zimbabwe's current political climate, any such constitution of the statutory media council must be viewed as an interim measure that will eventually pave way for self regulation of the media.

c) To expedite the establishment of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe in terms of amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act of January 2008, with the express purpose of ensuring the introduction of new players in Zimbabwe's broadcasting industry whilst actively pursuing the need for the establishment of an Independent Communications Authority to replace the Broadcasting Services Act as well as the Postal and Telecommunications Act.

d) To actively seek the reform of the state broadcasting Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings into a truly independent public service broadcaster, that is free of undue political or editorial interference.

e) To actively monitor the state controlled print media that it allows for fairer coverage of all political views, ceases hate language and is affordable to ordinary members of the public in order to allow for greater access to information.

f) To actively urge all media houses, practitioners to be gender sensitive in all of their operational and reporting practices to allow for gender parity in terms of media coverage of both men and women.

Long Term Measures

The undersigned persons and organisations reiterates the resolutions which were made by the media advocacy mother body, the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) on the 4th and 5th of December 2009. MAZ is a media advocacy coalition body consisting of Zimbabwe National Editors' Forum (ZNEF), the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ), the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) - Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) and Federation of African Women in Media Zimbabwe (FAWMZ). It is therefore imperative for the Parliament of Zimbabwe to act as a catalyst in the implementation of the resolutions stated below:

Constitutional Guarantee of freedom of the media

We hold that because freedom of expression is a cornerstone of any truly democratic society and that the media is a key mechanism for its true realisation, any constitutional reform process must ensure that the right to media freedom is included in a bill of rights in a final people driven constitution.

Access to Information

We hold that in tandem with universally accepted democratic principles, the right to access and impart information is an inalienable right not only for the media but for all of the citizens of Zimbabwe and that is imperative for the state to ensure the necessary democratic legislation is enacted. This will entail

Regulation and Registration of the media

We hold that the media should voluntarily regulate itself through democratic, transparent and publicly legitimate voluntary media council. Where statutory regulation has existed, it has consistently led to the curtailment of media freedom and access to information and it therefore is an unacceptable form of control over the media. All laws that enable statutory regulation of the media should therefore be repealed in keeping with democratic practice.

Protection of Journalists

We hold that, given the narrative of the harassments, arrests, detention, torture and murder of journalists, the protection of all media workers must be a priority of any government, parliament as well as all security services. Where the government or security services have acted with impunity in curtailing freedom of expression, freedom of the media or access to information, we hold that these practices should cease and be replaced by a democratic, peaceful environment in which the media can operate.

Print Media

We hold that the print media remains a key component of Zimbabwe's media diversity, and should be allowed to operate independently without undue influence from the state or government of the day. We also hold that the state and any government of the day should not have any direct stake or interest in the ownership or management of the print media as this compromises the sector's diversity and independence. Where the state has had direct control in the media, we recommend that it disinvests in these print media houses and allow for independent control of the same.

Broadcasting Diversity and Independent Regulation

  • With the full knowledge that Zimbabwe has not had any other broadcasters except the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, and that the Broadcasting Services Act remains undemocratic and should be repealed, we commit ourselves to the establishment of a broadcasting industry environment that is diverse and independent.
    We further commit ourselves to a three tier broadcasting system that is outlined in the African Charter on Broadcasting. That is to say, we believe in the necessity of public service broadcasting, commercial service broadcasting and community broadcasting.
  • We also hold that all broadcasting in Zimbabwe must be independently regulated and free from undue state and political interference through an Independent Regulatory Authority appointed through a transparent and public process as well as with the endorsement of parliament.
    In this vein, we hold that there should also be the conversion of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation from a state controlled broadcaster into a truly independent public service broadcaster governed by a democratic public service broadcasting law.

Media Professionalism

We hold that journalists in Zimbabwe are professional workers and should be recognised as such through all laws that affect labour, as well as through the formation of a National Employment Council to serve their professional needs.

We hold that a professional environment for journalists augurs well for the fair, accurate and people centred discharge of their duties.

We hold that all journalists should be committed to practising their profession in an ethical, fair and balanced manner according to a commonly agreed to Code of Conduct established after a democratic and consultative process.

Media Training

We hold that journalism training institutions are critical for the development of the profession, and therefore should be supported as far as is possible to train new entrants to the profession through ensuring academic freedom of the same, access to technological and relevant equipment.

We hold that all media employers should not in any way hinder or interfere with the training of their employees through seminars, workshops and press clubs and media centers.

We also urge media houses and media organisations to actively promote internships, on the job training to both their employees as well as media students.

New Media and Information Communication Technologies (ICTs)

We hold that the use of ICTs is a key component in the development of alternative/new media and that all efforts should be undertaken to ensure access to these new technologies. This should be undertaken through enacting democratic legislation and monitoring access to ICTs by citizens of Zimbabwe.

Gender and the Media

We hold that the fair coverage of both men and women in the media is a key component of any democratic media and that all media should strive to ensure that this is an established reality. This should be done through the establishment of internal gender and the media policies within media houses both in terms of news coverage as well as employment policies.

The Media and Civil Society

We hold that civil society organisations and community based organisations are an essential component of any democratic society, and therefore encourage, as far as is possible, the establishment of progressive linkages between civil society and the media, for the enhancement of democracy and good governance.

Media Development and Support

We hold that given the underdeveloped nature of Zimbabwe's media, an independent and free from political interference media development and support organisation be established by all media stakeholders to ensure that all necessary technical assistance is given to the latter.

We, the undersigned, therefore, appeal to the parliament of Zimbabwe for the urgent address and review of the afore cited grievances in a manner that ensures that our right to freedom of expression is fully recognized and adequately protected by the law.

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