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Trust Fund Board (TFB) statement on media developments and challenges in Zimbabwe
July 24, 2010

We the members of the TFB gathered at the 2010 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) held on 24 July 2010 at the Crowne Plaza Monomotapa Hotel in Harare, Zimbabwe, make the following statement:

We take note of the efforts being made by Zimbabwe's Government of National Unity (GNU) under the Global Political Agreement (GPA) to effect law reforms to open up the media and information sector in Zimbabwe;

We note that the success of media reforms, including the licensing of banned newspapers and admission of new players into the media sector, will depend on the full implementation of the GPA. This requires the enactment of a constitutional provision that explicitly guarantees media freedom and citizens' right to access information held by both public and private bodies;

We thus urge the Zimbabwean government to make the processes of media legislative reform and related policy issues as transparent and inclusive as possible and also that fundamental and international standards on media and freedom of expression rights are adhered to. These include Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Windhoek Declaration, African Charter on Broadcasting, the Banjul Declaration on Freedom of Expression in Africa;

We call upon the government to engage media players in a process of dialogue to review restrictive media laws that infringe on media and freedom of expression rights. Such laws include, but are not limited to:

We have however witnessed the sanctioned abuse of the national broadcaster by a single political party. The state-owned print media continues its divisive practice of spewing hate speech designed to polarize both the media and the public. Both the national broadcaster and state-owned print media feed from tax papers' money and yet are grossly abused to promote the interests of a select few;

We have recorded a decrease in the number of attacks on, and arrests of journalists in Zimbabwe. Notwithstanding this, we call upon the government to ensure the safety of media workers who still face legal and extra-legal threats from perpetrators of media freedom and free expression violations. We further urge you to drop any legal cases pending against media workers or citizens charged for exercising their right to freedom of expression;

MISA is vehemently opposed to statutory regulation of journalists and has consistently promoted effective self-regulation as the best system for promoting high standards in the media. As such we urge the government to support the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe and, in addition, to remove all restrictions on the practice of journalism.

We welcome the Information Communications Technology (ICT) Bill which is intended to merge the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and the Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) and create the National Information and Communications Technology Authority of Zimbabwe.

Regulation of the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors should be geared towards promoting their roles as enablers and conduits of free speech in line with declarations such as the African Charter on Broadcasting. The Charter states that the legal framework for broadcasting should include a clear statement of the principles underpinning broadcast regulation, including promoting respect for freedom of expression, diversity and the free flow of information and ideas, as well as a three tier system for broadcasting.

It is indeed our view that the long term viability of the broadcasting, telecommunications and ICT sectors lie in securing the independence of their regulatory frameworks.

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