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World Press Freedom Day
May 03, 2011

This year's World Press Freedom Day (WFPD) commemorations on 3 May 2011 are indeed of great significance as they come on the backdrop of the 20th anniversary of the 1991 Windhoek Declaration.

The Declaration is of great importance especially for the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and more so for MISA-Zimbabwe as it provides the foundational mission and vision statements that guide the organisation's media freedom and freedom of expression lobby and advocacy activities.

The 2011 WFPD international theme: 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers, directly relates to the fast growing media phenomena of information technologies not only in Africa but the world over.

According to the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), Zimbabwe has a total of 9.1 million mobile phone users but that the figure was projected to decrease by about 34% following the requirement for all subscribers to register their lines.

The growing usage and demand for advanced information technologies undoubtedly adds value to the exercise of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and citizens' right to access information.

MISA-Zimbabwe therefore urges the government to complete its revision of the proposed ICT Bill as a matter of urgency given the potential of the ICT sector in entrenching democracy and employment creation.

MISA-Zimbabwe however, notes with great concern that 10 years after the crafting of the African Charter on Broadcasting (ACB) and enactment of the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), Zimbabwe is still far from fulfilling the three-tier broadcasting system as envisaged under the Charter. The three-tier system comprises public broadcasting, private commercial broadcasting and establishment of community radio stations.

It is against this background that MISA-Zimbabwe came up with its 2011 WFPD theme: Broadcasting Reforms on the Agenda: Free the Airwaves Now! The theme was deliberately crafted to embrace the milestone significances of this year's commemorations.

For instance, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the coming into being of the 2001 African Charter on Broadcasting as intertwined with the enactment of the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) in the same year.

A majority of the 14-member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) now boast of a plethora of privately owned broadcasting stations and community radio stations. Zimbabwe thus remains stagnated as a monolithic pariah state whose airwaves continue to be monopolised by the state controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

While the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) has taken commendable steps towards fulfilling the obligations of the Windhoek Declaration for a diversified, pluralistic and independent media environment by licensing more than 20 media houses in the print sector, the broadcasting media environment remains restricted and constricted.

MISA-Zimbabwe therefore urges the inclusive government to fulfil its pledges and commitments to undertake comprehensive media reforms that will allow new private players into the broadcasting sector as mandated in terms of the GPA and Constitutional Amendment No 19 of 2009.

This can be achieved in the immediate short-term through:

  • Urgent reconstitution of Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and licensing of aspiring private broadcasters and community radio stations as an interim measure to free the airwaves ahead of elections.
  • Recognising the existence and potential of Community Radio Initiatives (CRIs) spread throughout the country especially Radio Dialogue FM in Bulawayo and Community Radio Harare (CORAH), which are fully equipped and ready to broadcast.
  • Urgent reconstitution of the ZBC governance board to ensure the broadcaster fulfills its public service mandate and reflects all shades of Zimbabwean opinions.
  • Resuscitation and adequate resourcing of the Mass Media Trust to insulate Zimpapers from political interference.
  • Urgent repeal or extensive amendment of laws that impinge on freedom of expression and media freedom, and citizens' right to access to information notably AIPPA, BSA, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and Interception of Communications Act.
  • Arrests and prosecution of any individuals implicated in any forms of extra-legal media freedom violations in order to curb wanton harassment of media practitioners and guarantee the safety and security in the conduct of their lawful and professional duties.

Visit the MISA-Zimbabwe fact sheet

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